Purdue Alumnus Fall 2021 - Magazine - Page 39
GIANT LEAP #8
You’ll breathe easier
BRANDON E. BOOR, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF CIVIL
engineering, studies the physics and chemistry of indoor air, and he knew long before the
pandemic was making news on U.S. soil that
COVID-19 was going to reorient his field.
“For decades, the primary focus in the field of
building science has been on making buildings
more energy efficient,” he says. “But I think that
will start taking a back seat to making our indoor
Those two issues are in tension with one
another. For example, recirculating air is one key
way to reduce energy costs, but it’s a giant red
flag for COVID-19 transmission. And since studies show that we spend 90% of our time indoors,
making indoor spaces as safe as possible has
been a key focus in the fight against the virus.
The good news is that the science of making
indoor air clean and healthy is relatively settled:
good ventilation and good filtration are essential. And plenty of today’s current technology,
such as ultraviolet light–based disinfection systems, can deactivate the virus.
While some newer buildings already have
almost everything they need to make their air as
safe as possible—including demand-controlled
ventilation that can help balance energy use
and ventilation needs—it will require significant
investment for older buildings.
But this pandemic has shown that it’s time to
focus on indoor air quality, says Boor. State and
federal support could help make it easier to bring
older buildings into the modern age.
Boor says these updates won’t just help us
with the coronavirus. They will help prepare
us for coming pandemics and protect us from
many other indoor contaminants and pollutants
that we’ve often ignored—ones that take a significant toll on our health.
“Cooking produces lots of small particles, and
there’s off-gassing from many materials—candles, incense, and even personal-care products,
such as deodorant,” he says. “These are all things
we’ve known about for a long time, but maintaining a clean indoor environment hadn’t really
caught on in the mainstream. Now it’s a priority.”
GIANT LEAP #9
The elderly will start getting
the care they deserve.
LONG-TERM CARE FACILITIES WERE THE UNFORTUNATE GROUND ZERO OF THE
early days of the pandemic in the United States. Tens of thousands of
older adults died in the facilities, and the media put a white-hot spotlight
on some of the biggest failures that led to this tragic outcome.
What soon became clear—not just to experts who had known about
the problem for years but also to the public more generally—was that
the workers who care for these older adults tend to be underpaid and
under equipped for their work, says Marian Liu, assistant professor in
the School of Nursing and faculty associate at the Center on Aging and
the Life Course.
Whether they were nursing assistants or health-care aides, those caring for adults in long-term care facilities and in their homes often weren’t
getting what they needed to respond to a public-health crisis.
“The public realized that it was time to take a hard look at how we
were treating these workers,” she says. “They have made massive contributions to the field and to the men and women in their care, but they
were getting low salaries, even minimum wage. They weren’t getting the
training they needed. And they weren’t getting the PPE they needed.”
As the pandemic eases, Liu is optimistic that this moment will be a
clarion call for providing better support for some of our society’s most
“There will be a lot more discussion about the idea of building a better,
stronger workforce for elder care. Can we do it? I’m hopeful.”
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