Buying an air purifier for pharmacies
Being in direct contact with ill patients puts chemists at high risk of contracting and spreading disease. This was more true than ever during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As frontline healthcare personnel, pharmacists served a crucial role in helping people recover from the virus. Chemists continue to play an essential role in helping people recover from illness, but they experience daily exposure to airborne diseases. Can an air purifier reduce airborne disease in a pharmacy, keeping customers and staff safe? Read on to learn more.
Indoor air quality (IAQ) in pharmacies
On a global scale, there are approximately 4 million registered pharmacists, 2.8 million of whom are actively practising. It is estimated that around 75% of these chemists work in community pharmacy. This means that these pharmacists work directly with patients seeking medical treatment and requiring care. The rest accounts for 13% of chemists working in hospital pharmacies and 12% in other areas1.
Indoor air pollution in pharmacies
The vast majority of practising pharmacists put themselves at risk of cross-contamination and infection in pharmacies on a daily basis. Indoor air quality is particularly concerning for chemists working in pharmacies. These pharmacists are exposed to germs from ill visitors in pharmacies (especially airborne bacteria and viruses). Additionally, community pharmacies and hospitals are typically located in urban areas that are easily accessible, close to roads and other types of industry. This means that pharmacies experience high levels of air pollution including:
- Fine and ultrafine particulate matter
- Allergens (pollen, dust generated from road use)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Other outdoor air pollutants
Outdoor air pollutants can easily gain entry into pharmacies when customers or staff open and close entry doors. Many professional buildings have an airtight design to optimise energy efficiency, making it impossible for these pollutants to escape. Pollutant concentration then builds as more pollutants enter the space. This is why many indoor spaces suffer from poor air quality and are often 2 to 5 times more polluted than outdoor spaces. Occupants can even fall ill from poor air quality due to Sick Building Syndrome.
COVID-19 impact on pharmacies
At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, 76% of pharmacists were concerned over the level of pharmaceutical care provided to vulnerable patients in pharmacies2. Providing sufficient customer care during the pandemic was a challenge, indicating that patients did not always get the care they needed.
Furthermore, only 27% of chemists surveyed at that time stated that it was possible to keep sufficient social distancing measures between other pharmacy team members2. Hiring and retaining pharmaceutical staff during the pandemic was already a difficult task, but keeping them healthy was even more challenging.
Social distancing practices are not easy to uphold as a pharmacist. On average, a pharmacist interacts with a minimum of 500 people per day3. A high rate of interaction with individuals that are ill puts a chemist at significant risk of contamination. Additionally, pharmacies are generally small spaces with several people waiting at any given time. This makes it even more difficult to implement social distancing procedures.
Another study performed in the Middle East found that community chemists were at greater risk of infection of COVID-19 due to occupational factors and regular exposure. The following chart shows the steps taken by pharmacists surveyed in this study who experienced COVID-19 symptoms:
As demonstrated above, 10.9% of pharmacists continued to work despite experiencing COVID-19 symptoms4. This behaviour applies to other illnesses as well, a practice that could put other pharmacy employees at risk as well as pharmacy patient visitors (some who may be particularly vulnerable).
How does an air purifier for pharmacies work?
An air purifier is a device designed to purify your indoor air. Using a powerful fan, it pulls polluted air into the device, treats the air using one or more air purification technologies, then recirculates the air back into your indoor space.
High-quality air purifiers can contain a variety of technology types that are used to combat different types of indoor air pollutants. Some of the most common technology types you may find on today’s market include:
- Medical-grade HEPA-certified filters
- Activated carbon filters
- Ionisation (negative ions)
- Ultraviolet (UVC) sterilisation
Certain models of air purifiers, like Eoleaf’s, come equipped with all of the above technology types in one, convenient device! Eoleaf’s devices even include two additional technology types in addition to those mentioned above: a bamboo antibacterial filter and a lysozyme/silver ion treatment. Our proprietary technology ensures that all pollutants, regardless of size and source, are removed from your breathing air. This guarantees improved indoor air quality and that employees and customers are kept safe from the dangers of indoor air pollution.
The benefits of an air purifier for pharmacies
Installing a high-quality air purifier and improving air quality in a pharmacy can bring many benefits to both pharmaceutical staff and customers.
Decrease the risk of cross-contamination and infection in pharmacies
By removing airborne illnesses in pharmacies, the risk of pathogen transmission and infection is significantly reduced. A HEPA (high efficiency particulate air)-certified filter is guaranteed to filter 99.97% of pollutants down to a size of 0.01 microns, including particles as small as the COVID-19 virus. A device that also comes equipped with UVC sterilisation can take it one step further by causing bacterial cell death and viral inactivation, rendering these microscopic organisms unable to reproduce or propagate. Studies show that when a HEPA-certified filter and UVC sterilisation technologies are used together, it is the best method for reducing the transmission of disease5. This is a great way to keep all users of a pharmacy safe.
It is worth noting that ‘HEPA-type’ filters do not undergo the same third-party testing! These filters, although available at a lower price than HEPA-certified filters, are not guaranteed to have the same air filtration capabilities.
Provide a better working environment for staff
An employer that invests in its employees by ensuring their health and safety differentiates itself from its competition. An improved working environment for employees makes it easier for employers to hire and retain employees, as well as keep them safe. Improving air quality by removing indoor pollutants from a work environment has also been linked to increased productivity amongst chemists, better work performance, lower levels of fatigue, and improved well-being amongst employees6.
Installing an air purifier in a pharmacy for air filtration can equally combat the presence of VOCs. VOCs are released into the air via cleaning and sanitising products, chemical usage, medications prepared by chemists, pesticides, and even furniture, to name a few. These particles can remain in the air for up to two years and can lead to many negative health effects. Unfortunately, not all air filtration technologies (including HEPA-certified filters) can remove them from your air. This is why Eoleaf products provide complementary technologies like activated carbon filtration and photocatalysis, both of which eliminate airborne VOCs.
Activated carbon filtration also removes unpleasant pharmacy odours from your breathing air, another way to improve your staff’s working environment. Bad odours (including those caused by certain chemicals in a pharmacy) can severely impact your day-to-day and can be distracting to employees and customers alike.
Instil customer confidence
Pharmacies that invest in clean air technologies are likely to have customers that feel more at ease when entering your establishment. Especially following the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to provide customers with clean air that will protect them from airborne illness in a pharmacy.
In addition to protecting them from airborne disease and infection, clients will be protected from allergens like pollen and fine particle pollution. For those suffering from allergies or asthma, entering a pharmacy can feel less overwhelming by reducing the possibility of experiencing adverse health symptoms including asthma attacks.
How to choose an air purifier for pharmacies?
When searching for the ideal air purification device for your pharmacy, there are certain factors to keep in mind.
Consider the size of your pharmacy and the device’s performance
Air purifiers are designed to filter the air of a space of a given size. Your device must be properly sized to your space in order to achieve optimal air filtration in any given room. Pharmacies are usually small and may or may not have a waiting room. Smaller pharmacies may benefit from Eoleaf’s AEROPRO 40 device, whilst larger pharmacies may prefer a larger unit like Eoleaf’s AEROPRO 150.
When combatting airborne pathogens, there are two important metrics that should be considered before choosing your device. Be sure to refer to a device’s ACH (Air Changes per Hour) and CADR (Clean Air Delivery Rating) for your pharmacy. These metrics will help you determine:
- How many times per hour your pharmacy’s volume of air is renewed with purified air (ACH)
- How much filtered air your air purifier will deliver per minute (CADR)
To provide an example, an ACH value of 5 means that the air in your pharmacy is replaced 5 times per hour. This is the minimum ACH value recommended by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) . To calculate your ACH, simply use the following equation:
- ACH = CADR / Volume of room
To learn more about CADR and ACH, refer to our Buying Guide. Also feel free to contact us to size your project.
Consider its filter and air filtration technology types
Not all filters are created equal: quality and price can differ significantly. First and foremost, make sure to search out air purifiers (also called air cleaners, air sterilisers, or air sanitisers) containing technologies that are made to combat airborne pathogens. The most-recommended filtration technology types for pharmacies are medical-grade, HEPA-certified filters and UVC sterilisation technologies. Additional technology types like activated carbon, photocatalysis, and ionisation are recommended to fight against all types of indoor air pollution like VOCs and fine particle pollution.
Consider its noise level
An air cleaner should be both powerful and quiet. Even at its highest fan speed, air sanitisers for pharmacies should never disturb customers or distract employees. Eoleaf air purifiers at their lowest fan speed are nearly silent. On their highest fan speed, their sound level is equivalent to that of an average office building.
Consider its design, features, and placement
An air purifier for a pharmacy should have certain features that enhance its user-friendliness and air filtration capacities. A useful design feature is for your pharmacy air purifier to be portable. An air purifier that is equipped with wheels and handles is perfect for allowing easy movement from room to room as needed. That said, an air cleaner that is mounted to the wall is less ideal; a flexible air purifier for a pharmacy is preferred.
Keep in mind when choosing where to place your air purifier that optimal placement can improve filtration abilities by up to 20%! Ensure that the device is not blocked by walls or placed in a corner. It should always be unobstructed by furniture or pharmacy shelving. Ideally, it should be placed in the middle of the room where there is maximum air flow.
Finally, another beneficial capability for a pharmacy air purifier is controlling your device using smart technology features. With features like app compatibility and a remote control, you can control your device whilst performing other tasks, even from another room. This is practical if you want to track your IAQ, but the device is located in another part of the pharmacy. Another practical aspect of app compatibility is that you can also control your device from afar. You can change fan speeds, set smart scheduling (for example, you can schedule your device to change to the highest fan speed before opening up shop for the day and after closing), and more.
For more information on how to properly choose an air purifier, refer to our in-depth Buying Guide that helps you consider all aspects of purchasing and owning an air purifier. For more specific questions, do not hesitate to contact our team of air purification experts.
1 International Pharmaceutical Federation. “Pharmacy at a Glance — 2015-2017.” FIP. 2017. https://www.fip.org/file/1348
2 Koster ES, Philbert D, Bouvy ML. Impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on the provision of pharmaceutical care in community pharmacies. Res Social Adm Pharm. 2021 Jan;17(1):2002-2004. doi: 10.1016/j.sapharm.2020.07.001. Epub 2020 Jul 2. PMID: 33317768; PMCID: PMC7330552.
3 Dzingirai B, Matyanga CMJ, Mudzviti T, Siyawamwaya M, Tagwireyi D. Risks to the community pharmacists and pharmacy personnel during COVID-19 pandemic: perspectives from a low-income country. J Pharm Policy Pract. 2020 Jul 15;13:42. doi: 10.1186/s40545-020-00250-2. PMID: 32724658; PMCID: PMC7360895.
4 Khojah, H. M. J., Itani, R., Mukattash, T. L., Karout, S., Jaffal, F., & Abu-Farha, R. (2021). Exposure of community pharmacists to COVID-19: A multinational cross-sectional study. Journal of Taibah University Medical Sciences, 16(6), 920–928. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658361221001347
5 Beck, S. E., Rodriguez, R. A., Hawkins, M. A., Hargy, T. M., Larason, T. C., & Linden, K. G. (2015). Comparison of UV-induced inactivation and RNA damage in MS2 phage across the germicidal UV spectrum. Applied and Environmental Microbiology, 82(5), 1468–1474. https://doi.org/10.1128/aem.02773-15
6 Neidell, M., & Pestel, N. (2023). Air pollution and worker productivity. IZA World of Labor. https://doi.org/10.15185/izawol.363.v2