Public Transit, Gyms Top Places People Worry About Virus Transmission

In Toronto, the first city-wide testing of businesses to evaluate the risk of flu, RSV, and COVID-19 shows that people experience a wide range of ventilation safety over the course of a day.

As the temperature drops and people spend more time indoors, facility managers, occupants, and visitors have limited information about the safety of indoor air in public spaces. To address this, BreatheEasy — a consortium of organizations concerned about measuring indoor air safety — conducted the world’s first city-wide program to test indoor air safety in public spaces where people work, shop, and gather. The goal of the survey, conducted by Leger on behalf of BreatheEasy Toronto (BreatheEasyTO), was to evaluate the risk of contracting an airborne illness such as colds, flu, RSV, or COVID-19.

Public transit (55%) and gyms (48%) top the list of spaces where people feel the most uncomfortable due to the risk of virus transmission, according to the survey of workers in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). Next on the list are medical offices (33%), restaurants (32%), office spaces (26%), and retail stores (25%).

indoor air safetyFindings revealed that people experience a wide range of ventilation safety over the course of a day, and 70% of people are concerned about catching a respiratory virus at work. With 90% of those surveyed understanding the critical role that ventilation plays in preventing respiratory infections, 66% said they would spend more time in a building where they had access to air safety data. However, only 60% noted that their workplace has communicated air safety protocols and best practices to keep staff safe.

Over six weeks, BreatheEasyTO tested over 9 million cubic feet of indoor space across 119 locations in the 50 busiest blocks of downtown Toronto. From office towers and concert halls to restaurants and retail shops, private and public spaces in participating locations — which included landmarks such as Scotia Plaza, Atrium, RBC Waterpark Place, Richmond-Adelaide Centre, Meridian Hall, TIFF Lightbox, Little Canada — all received a free Rapid Air Safety Test. The program measured how quickly each space cleared viruses and bacteria using effective Air Changes per Hour (ACH), with the scores provided to each space so facility managers and employers can better understand and communicate the air safety to staff and visitors, and take the necessary steps to improve ventilation if needed.

Air Safety Varies By A Factor Of 20X On Typical Day

According to results from the BreatheEasy indoor air safety testing done to date, three-quarters (75%) of tested spaces had an ACH of 6 or greater, which is the equivalent of replacing the air in the room every 10 minutes. For context, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) guides hospitals to maintain 6 ACH or higher to significantly reduce risk of respiratory transmissions indoors.