Communities of faith are often seen as safe sanctuaries for people to turn to for spiritual guidance, a sense of belonging, and a helping hand in times of need. Following the surge of COVID-19, churches have taken a hard hit on their attendance as public safety is pulled into question.
With airborne risks at the forefront of everyone’s mind, it is more essential now than ever that church leaders prioritize improvements to their indoor air quality for the sake of recovering from the pandemic and welcoming back parishioners safely.
Facing Airborne Risks in Communities of Faith
The pandemic has negatively affected religious organizations across the globe, specifically causing a decline in U.S. church membership to a mere 47% in 2020. Losses in active parishioners span from at-risk populations to health-conscious individuals, all of which have succumbed to the fear that churches and other communal spaces aren’t providing adequate safety. This weariness has caused isolation and breakdown of communities everywhere, and churches are now suffering from both a social and economic perspective.
This fear of return does not come without justification, as many illness outbreaks have resulted from premature reopening of churches and worship centers in the last two years. People understand to an extent that without reliable safety measures, increased cases and outbreaks will continue to happen. This leads to the expectation of our community leaders to take the proper actions to improve our indoor environments.
However, when it comes to air quality, the unfortunate truth is that there will always be airborne risks, including chemical fumes, VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds), CO2, particulate matter, and new airborne viruses. This is one of the many reasons why the concern surrounding indoor air quality is not short-lived, but rather a long-term battle that requires proper remediation and regulation over time.
The Importance of Clean Air in Churches
Sharing the same mindset as industry experts, the White House and Environmental Protection Agency have recently instated new standards for indoor air quality in public buildings via the Clean Air in Buildings Challenge. Geared towards management and organizational leaders, this initiative outlines air quality solutions that can help protect public spaces from airborne contaminants, suggesting not only the implementation of air quality improvements but the participation and awareness of the community with these efforts.
As many of its precursors have touched on, this announcement urges greater consideration for indoor air quality, like upgrading to MERV-13 filters and keeping HVAC systems running whenever people are occupying buildings. The suggested safety measures outlined in this challenge are what building managers should recognize as a public responsibility to uphold for health and safety, rather than a temporary bandage to fix our current air quality concerns.
Indoor air quality is relevant to all spaces, both public and private. While some factors of indoor air are universal to any enclosed space, churches carry air quality risks specific to the traditional behaviors and actions that take place in their buildings of worship. Think of elements like singing and chanting of parishioners, shoulder-to-shoulder assembly in pews, the burning of candles and incense, shared worship material, and small confinements like confessional booths.
Common among all of these is their contribution to poor indoor air quality; inadequate ventilation mixed with the overproduction of aerosols, CO2, particulate matter, and pathogens can create a cocktail of dangerous air that churchgoers constantly breathe in without knowing it. Some of these contaminants come from outdoor sources of pollution, while others are produced straight from people.
With these present dangers in mind, it is essential that church leaders act on this matter accordingly through implementing indoor air quality improvements within their worship environment. This not only mitigates airborne risks but also brings peace of mind to parishioners.
Steps Towards a Safer Church
Because airborne contaminants can come from a handful of sources, it is important for church leaders to understand that developing a layered prevention strategy is the optimal way to fully mitigate airborne risks and improve indoor air quality. While tactics such as mask wearing and social distancing have proven their benefits in airborne risk reduction, the real power comes from air-specific advancements, like enhanced HVAC system practices, upgraded air filters, and the use of portable air purifiers throughout the indoor space.
Portable air purifiers have become a popular solution for many communal spaces, favored for their high efficiency and adaptability in any indoor space. While existing HVAC systems may be outdated and lack ventilation and filtration capabilities, air purifiers are easy to install as a complementary solution for optimized filtration to regulate indoor air quality. These proactive measures can protect indoor air spaces from risks that leaders do not always consider and elevate their safety precautions to a higher standard.
The Benefits of Better Indoor Air Quality
As experts and officials push for indoor air quality improvements, it is valuable to understand what benefits these initiatives will bring. Increased filtration and ventilation have the immediate impact of capturing airborne contaminants and circulating fresh, clean air throughout an indoor space. This valid mode to mitigate airborne risks not only creates a healthier environment for parishioners to gather in, but it also provides the emotional value of peace of mind shared by all church members concerned about safety.
The longevity of indoor air quality benefits spans far beyond achieving peace of mind as we overcome the pandemic. Church leaders should feel confident in the environments they operate in, for all services, religious holidays, and community events being held. The layer of protection that advanced filtration can provide will last through the seasons and continuously assure both leaders and parishioners that the utmost safety is being achieved.
Beyond public health and safety, building structures also benefit from better air quality. Resolving issues of poor ventilation and indoor air exchange can prevent future issues of humidity and mold growth, which are detrimental to the quality of a building.
As clean air solutions are becoming more prominent and accessible, the time for church leaders to tackle the challenge of improving indoor air quality is now. Through authority guidance, communities of faith finally have a promising chance of returning to a safer normal than they ever knew before.
This article is courtesy of EnviroKlenz, a leading developer and manufacturer of a variety of patented environmentally safe products, technologies, and applications for the capture and neutralization of chemical and biological toxins, pathogens, and other nuisance contaminants, www.enviroklenz.com.