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Excerpts and edited notes for this blog were referenced from an “Ask An Expert” KCBS radio station 740 FM segment on September 3rd, 2020 at 9:20 AM sponsored by Stanford Health Care, hosted by Stan Bunger. The following blog is presented for viewers to validate, accept and/or decline its content and findings on their own.

As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, KCBS Radio spoke with Carolne Savello, chief commercial officer for Color, a Bay Area health company running many of the region’s COVID- 19 testing sites.

Ask An Expert

There has been much discussion about how to properly ventilate and dilute air in indoor spaces in order to reduce transmission of the novel coronavirus through aerosols.

But how do you check if your set-up is actually working?

“A simple way we’ve been sharing with the public is to buy a carbon dioxide detector,” said Dr. Shelly Miller, professor in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Colorado in Boulder on KCBS Radio’s “Ask An Expert” segment Thursday.

Dr. Miller said carbon dioxide detectors are readily available online and cost about $100 each.

While some people may be concerned if they see condensation building up on windows, for example on public transit or in a shared car, Dr. Miller explained moisture operates somewhat differently and is not necessarily a good indicator of aerosol flow.

A carbon dioxide detector, on the other hand, can give people a good idea of whether or not exhalation is building up in a shared indoor space.

“If you monitor the carbon dioxide in a space and you keep it below – I’m saying 600, 800 parts per million, outside is 400 – if you keep it below that, you can use it as a proxy for how much exhaled CO2 is being released into your classroom by the people who are in the room,” Dr. Miller explained. “And if that is building up, that means you’re not getting enough outside air to dilute that carbon dioxide.”

Carbon dioxide levels should indicate whether or not air is being properly diluted, whether through filtration or ventilation. They do not, of course, detect for the presence of the virus itself.

In normal situations, 1,000 ppm is a recommended level for carbon dioxide, “but I’m being cautious and saying let’s aim for 600-800 if we could,” she said.

Most spaces are generally well mixed so readings should be fairly consistent throughout a space, unless you are close to a concentration of people or breathing on the detector.

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

TAGS: Ask An Expert Indoor Air aerosols Coronavirus health all news all local