A leading industry expert has claimed that merchants quickly cashed in on the confusion in schools by selling air purification systems that failed to prevent Covid-19 from spreading in classrooms.
Schools have been hit by offers from companies to install HEPA filters since the government gave 62 million euros in pandemic aid in December.
The Ministry of Education has chosen to personalize schools make their own decisions about clean air, but the dean of Loreto College in Swords, Co Dublin warned that they had been fired into a dead end.
Peter McNamara told the Irish Sun: “There’s a lot of investigations going on, emails flying around and the problem is we get a lot of companies sending us emails and flyers and it’s very difficult to decide. .
“Every principal wants to make their school as safe as possible. From what we can see, this puts pressure on if the Department comes up with a specification and a device, and also does the procurement for us and supplies us with some equipment that we don’t want. they can accept.
“That would be better. But they believe that no two schools are alike, so it’s easier to give money to us. Principals will do their best to spend this money to improve the classroom environment.” safer but it’s a difficult position to take.”
Primary schools received 45 million euros and post-primary schools 17 million euros, each of which was free to use the funding when they needed it.
The Irish Sun learned that three private schools had requested state funding.
Most read in The Irish Sun
While 17 schools have applied for additional ventilation subsidies under the emergency works program, none of the 11 schools approved to date have identified a need for HEPA filters.
Architect and former Nphet consultant Orla Hegarty claims that along with wearing a mask, a HEPA filter – which works by drawing air through a filter that traps pollutants – will reduce transmission in the field by 90%. learn.
Health Minister Stephen Donnelly repeatedly asserted that they were not needed in schools, that CO2 screens and opening windows were all necessary for ventilation, but this changed in December following media pressure.
Now, however, struggling schools are calling on parents to know and anyone they can find to help them decide which clean air product is best for them, while some comments attributed to the government’s lack of advice.
A source said: “Principals have been given what they believe is very basic information in an area where they know nothing about and they expect to reach out and make appropriate purchases. for their school. That is madness. ”
SUB STANDARD FILTER SYSTEM
The standards of some filters being applied to schools have met with opposition from competitors in the field.
An Irish company, Novaerus, has patented an air purifier that is scientifically proven to remove pathogens including Covid-19 in the air – as opposed to trapping them.
Kieran McBrien spent ten years building the brand in 65 countries and consulting in Germany to set minimum industry standards.
When asked if he was worried about air filtration standards being bought by schools, he said: “Unnamed, I’m concerned that a lot of people – not just in Irish – there are a lot of things that hit the market very quickly to jump into the race and make a quick buck.
“It would be wrong to say that there are dangerous machines, but the situation is that people are making pretty exaggerated claims and in some cases things are not.
“In some situations, people are being lulled into a higher sense of security. It is likely that people make exaggerated claims about the overall effectiveness of filters as a technology.
“For really effective virus protection, you have to use really expensive high-quality filters.”
It claims that the ongoing cost of replacing filters will cost state-funded machines worth millions of euros to be unloaded by schools in the coming months.
NOT FITNESS FOR PURPOSE
“In the US, they remove the devices from the left and center schools because they have the capital to buy the equipment but no funding to maintain them,” said an industry source.
“In particular, in some schools, they asked parents to come in for free on weekends to change the filter. No school would want to do that. We are setting ourselves up for that. “
Michael Corr from Novaerus insists schools have purchased substandard filters.
“There are some devices that call themselves HEPA filters,” he said. If it does not have a specific quality mark then it is not a HEPA filter.
“It’s a lot cheaper but it’s not proven to filter out bacteria or viruses, which would go right through them in a split second.
“Schools are buying these devices. They use the word HEPA but are fundamentally wrong because they don’t meet the actual standard. They are cheap. You buy one for 300-400 euros.
“Additionally, schools that use HEPA are establishing themselves that their equipment will not be used because they cannot afford the filters to go with it.
“I can assure you it will happen. Filters vary but you are looking at each set at least a few hundred euros to replace and maybe every six months. ”
In some situations, people are being lulled into a higher sense of security. It is likely that people make exaggerated claims about the overall effectiveness of filters as a technology.
Kieran McBrien, Novaerus
He added: “We kill pathogens before they attack the filter, but other devices that just use filter technology are very likely to have live bacteria when you are ready to change that filter, possibly There may be live viruses on it.
“If it’s not changed by someone with expertise, they’ll just drop it back in the air. Plus, getting rid of those filters is a biohazard, you’re not just putting it in a regular bin and all of this is being left to schools with no knowledge of the matter. this field “.
Novaerus is present in more than two dozen schools – starting with individual teachers buying them with their own money – a number that Mr. McBrien hopes will be higher now.
These include the Ballyheada national school in Ballincollig, Co Cork, where eight devices were donated to them by a local environmental analysis services company.
The devices they believe are best suited for the classroom cost €2,500 plus VAT, a lot more than standard HEPA, although the company says it will work with any school to try. make it a reality for them.
In Loreto in Swords, Mr. McNamara installed three in classrooms without ventilation and one in the staff room last fall – and is happy with the impact even with windows open and shirts dressed like everywhere else.
“We were an early pioneer, we invested in the early fall, there were some classrooms that we felt lacked ventilation no matter what we did,” he said.
“I can say that with these in the room, we can be more confident that we are all safer and the air is cleaner, safer for teaching. It gives the teacher and 24 girls that peace of mind. “
Mr Corr who met Tanaiste Leo Varadkar last summer to request the creation of a panel of experts to make tech recommendations, adding: “This pandemic has made us realize that there’s a lot more nasty stuff in the air than we thought. before. Now there is an appetite to understand that.
“If the government comes to us and says we are looking at taking care of the schools, Novaerus and its distributor McGreals will find a solution that doesn’t cost too much. We will do it at a cost. We can only do it in Irish.
“I told Leo that we don’t see this as a revenue opportunity but as an opportunity to do a good deed.”
The set Education “Ventilation management is just one of a number of public health measures in place to keep our schools safe,” said in a statement.
“Because each school’s context is different, individual schools are best placed to decide how best to use this funding to address their specific needs.
“Professional advice/support from a Licensed Engineer or Registered Architect is an important source of support for schools.
“This will help ensure that the right solutions are being put in place to address ventilation problems, including advice on whether a HEPA Air Cleaning Unit is required to deal with the problem. whether the room is poorly ventilated or not.
“In the event that a school has difficulty participating in these activities, the Department can provide assistance, with a dedicated ventilation team available to assist school principals.”
https://www.thesun.ie/news/8178163/school-ventilation-air-filtration-systems-covid-rogue-traders/ Schools are being targeted by merchants trying to cash in on ventilation confusion by selling systems that fail to contain Covid