Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Strategies for Covid-19

This information has been provided by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation, & Forestry.

IAQ and IPM strategies for Microbial Pests

October is bringing predictably cooler temperatures, which means we’ll all be spending more time indoors. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is well known to affect human health and academic performance, but the pandemic has brought renewed attention. Now is a good time to take a second look at both ventilation systems and cleaning/disinfecting protocols to make sure all processes are working optimally and that staff have completed the necessary training.

Ventilation and Filtration

Our understanding of coronavirus has evolved in the past ten months, and we now know that people can become infected merely by sharing air, especially in close quarters. While wearing masks, installing barriers, reducing occupancy, and holding classrooms outdoors are good strategies, schools are also implementing additional ventilation and air filtration processes to reduce risk of disease transmission while also improving overall indoor air quality. Ventilation and filtration of indoor air may be at least as important, if not more so, than surface disinfection for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission1,2. And, with increased use of cleaning and disinfectant products, it is especially important to ensure that indoor spaces are adequately ventilated.

The simplest way to increase ventilation is to open screened windows and doors for cross-ventilation of indoor spaces, if doing so does not compromise safety or interfere with normal operation of ventilation systems. This is less ideal as temperatures drop, but may offer a temporary way to improve IAQ (and reduce risk of coronavirus transmission) in buses and some classrooms.

Portable air cleaners can also help. Environmental engineers at the University of Colorado Boulder and Harvard have created a guide on selection and use of portable air cleaners for schools.

Environmental engineers also recommend increasing settings on mechanical ventilation systems to six to nine fresh air exchanges per hour, if possible. When more people are in a space, the air exchange rate should be at the higher settings. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) provides detailed checklists and comprehensive guidance on ventilation and filtration to help schools slow transmission of viruses and improve indoor air quality via HVAC systems in ‘Reopening of Schools and Universities’. Consult with your HVAC specialist before making any changes to operation of your HVAC system.

Image Credit: Yale School of Public Health ()

Additional Resources

References Cited

1Goldman, E. 2020. Exaggerated risk of transmission of COVID-19 by fomites. The Lancet 20 (8): 892-893

2Sy, S. and F. Carlson. How a Focus on Cleaning Can Distract from Actual Virus Spread. PBS NewsHour. Sept 22, 2020

Cleaning and Disinfection

Selecting the right cleaning and disinfecting products and using them correctly is critical to the health and safety of the people in your care—including your own staff. Some products may pose unnecessary health risks, may be ineffective against coronavirus, and/or are not permitted for use in Maine schools. Avoid learning after the purchase, that the sales rep was misinformed about Maine’s regulations or was making false claims.

Before purchasing any products, obtain and read both the product label and Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and verify that the products under consideration are permitted for use and will be appropriate for the intended purpose. For disinfectants and sanitizers, the product label has instructions on how and where to use the product, what PPE may be required, the required contact time, and more. You must read and follow the label! Disinfectant labels are legal documents that clearly state, “It is a violation of Federal law to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling.” The SDS has additional chemical safety information but lacks the critical information found only on the product label. Obtain the product label from your distributor or contact the Maine Board of Pesticides Control.

Because many disinfecting and sanitizing products share similar trade names, refer to the product’s unique identifier—the EPA Registration Number (EPA Reg. No.) found on the label. Keep a copy of both the product’s label and the SDS in your school’s pest activity logbook, along with a written record of were, why, how and by whom, these sanitizing or disinfectant pesticides are used in your schools.

Using Electrostatic or Other Powered Sprayers? Governor Mills issued Executive Order 7 FY20/21, temporarily suspending some pesticide applicator licensing requirements, thus permitting the unlicensed use of powered sprayers for routine disinfection by qualified staff. To qualify for this temporary exemption personnel must complete School Disinfectant Applicator Training and the associated on-line exam to receive a certificate.

Non-school employees, including contracted cleaning services and bus drivers are not included in this license exemption and must have a full Commercial Pesticide Applicator’s license for powered disinfectant application. All other pesticide applications on school properties, powered or not, also require a Commercial Pesticide Applicators license. Contact the Maine Board of Pesticides Control for more information.

Additional Resources


alling new IPM Coordinators! 

All School IPM Coordinators must complete the Initial Training Module and the Comprehensive IPM Training one time.

  • The next Comprehensive IPM Training  will be offered via webinar Friday October 30, 8:00-11:00 AM. REGISTER NOW. Note: This webinar will be recorded and available for on-demand viewing later.


  • Initial IPM Training, provides an overview of Maine’s School IPM requirements (always available on-demand).

After completion of these two trainings, you must also earn one hour of IPM continuing education/year. Credit can be earned by viewing webinars, presentations and videos related to school IPM such as the webinars listed below.

Additional Training Opportunities

October 20, 2020, 1:00-2:30 PM ET. Cleaning up after Rodent Infestations. Register Now.

October 22, 2020, 1:00-2:30 PM ET. New Tools to Assess and Address IAQ Health and Safety. Register Now.

Questions/Comments? Contact us!
Phone: 207-287-7616

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