Contamination of Air and Surfaces in Workplaces with SARS-CoV-2 Virus: A Systematic Review



Cherrie JW, Cherrie MPC, Smith A, Holmes D, Semple S, Steinle S, Macdonald E, Moore G & Loh M (2021) Contamination of Air and Surfaces in Workplaces with SARS-CoV-2 Virus: A Systematic Review. Annals of Work Exposures and Health, 65 (8), pp. 879-892.

Objectives This systematic review aimed to evaluate the evidence for air and surface contamination of workplace environments with SARS-CoV-2 RNA and the quality of the methods used to identify actions necessary to improve the quality of the data. Methods We searched Web of Science and Google Scholar until 24 December 2020 for relevant articles and extracted data on methodology and results. Results The vast majority of data come from healthcare settings, with typically around 6% of samples having detectable concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and almost none of the samples collected had viable virus. There were a wide variety of methods used to measure airborne virus, although surface sampling was generally undertaken using nylon flocked swabs. Overall, the quality of the measurements was poor. Only a small number of studies reported the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA, mostly just reporting the detectable concentration values without reference to the detection limit. Imputing the geometric mean air concentration assuming the limit of detection was the lowest reported value, suggests typical concentrations in healthcare settings may be around 0.01 SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA copies m−3. Data on surface virus loading per unit area were mostly unavailable. Conclusions The reliability of the reported data is uncertain. The methods used for measuring SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses in work environments should be standardized to facilitate more consistent interpretation of contamination and to help reliably estimate worker exposure.

aerosol; fomite; hospital; SARS-CoV-2; surface; transportation; virus

Annals of Work Exposures and Health: Volume 65, Issue 8

FundersCSO Chief Scientist Office
Publication date31/10/2021
Publication date online30/07/2021
Date accepted by journal24/03/2021

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Professor Sean Semple

Professor Sean Semple

Professor, Institute for Social Marketing

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