A professor has urged business owners to invest in inexpensive CO2 detection devices in order to monitor ventilation levels in their workplaces, as efforts continue to contain Covid-19 levels in Ireland.
Professor John Wenger, of UCC’s School of Chemistry and Environmental Research Institute, said CO2 monitors can be used as a “warning system” for businesses such as indoor hospitality venues.
“We are not saying this is a measure of your risk of infection. But this tells you [that] you have enough fresh air. You need a combination of masks, distancing and good fresh air to reduce the risks [of transmitting Covid],” he said.
Prof Wenger recently carried out an experiment with a hair salon in Cork city, placing a CO2 monitor in an unused station about one or two metres from the chairs being used by customers.
Owner Nora Cronin of Head to Toe salon on Princes Street was instructed to open a window and door and get some airflow through the room if the CO2 level exceeded 800 parts per million (ppm).
Hair salon experiment
When customers came in on day one of the experiment, the CO2 particle level rose to 800ppm even with the window open. Ms Cronin opened the door at that point and the particle levels dropped very quickly.
Prof Wenger said the CO2 devices are readily available and cost just €150 to €200, advising businesses to buy them as detection systems are already mandatory in some indoor spaces in Belgium.
“Some businesses will find that their ventilation is absolutely fine and you can confirm that with a readily available instrument that is online. It is as easy to use as the phone. You just turn it on and away you go,” he said.
“It can be used as a traffic light system. A kind of warning system. If your level goes high you have to open the door. It’s as simple as that.
“For Nora she wanted to do as much as she could to create a safe environment. It is natural for people to want to do that. It is reassuring for staff and for customers.”
Prof Wenger said there should be a big take up in the devices, particularly with the reopening of indoor hospitality.
“I would recommend this as you can easily identify poorly ventilated areas and you can act on that. You can open a combination of windows and doors,” he said.
“Without the detector you open a window or a door and people say 'what good is that doing?' And you cannot tell. But with the CO2 measurement you will open windows and a door and see levels dropping quickly.”
People feel much safer because I have this
Meanwhile, Ms Cronin said her customers have been greatly comforted by the presence of the monitor – and the device has even gained her some new business.
“People feel much safer because I have this. One woman who was after major surgery heard of it [the CO2 monitor] and came in because she felt reassured by it,” she said.
“I open the window in the front and the back room and that works because it is the cross-ventilation that works.
“You only have to have the window ajar. You don't have to open it that much. You won't be freezing!”