Elevator Ventilation and SARS-CoV-2-Relevant Particulate Matter Removal in Three Older California Elevators


The objective of this study was to measure particulate matter (PM) total loss rates in three older (1940s, 1960s, and 1980s) elevators in California during two phases and three low-cost intervention modes. Tracer gas decay and <2 μm aerodynamic diameter nontoxic NaCl particles (PM2) were used to calculate PM2 loss rates. The NaCl particles were considered surrogates for smaller particles carrying SARS-CoV-2. Empirical PM2 loss rates were paired with modeled dynamic scenarios to estimate SARS-CoV-2-relevant PM2 removal. Mean loss rates (hr-1) ranged from 1.8 to 184. Compared to a closed-door, stationary elevator, the moving elevators had a fourfold increased mean loss rate (hr-1), while an air cleaner in a stationary elevator increased the mean loss rates sixfold. In a dynamic particle removal simulation of a ten-story elevator, PM was removed 1.38-fold faster with an air cleaner intervention during bottom and top floor stops only (express ride) and 1.12-fold faster with an air cleaner during every other floor stops. The increase in removal rates due to the air cleaner was modest due to the higher moving and open-door removal rates, except during stationary phase. The half-life of PM2 particles in a stationary elevator after all passengers have left can be 8-12 minutes following a single emission and 2-5 minutes with an air cleaner. The low particle removal rate in the stationary elevator requires an intervention so that the particle removal rate will be high to eliminate infectious aerosol. If codes permit, keeping the door open when the elevator is stationary is most effective; otherwise, an air cleaner in a stationary elevator should be used. While an air cleaner is commonly seen as a substantial improvement in reducing potential virus concentration in air, in the moving elevator scenarios, the effect is quite modest. This paper provides empirical particle loss rates inside elevators, the effectiveness of air cleaners in a dynamic elevator space, two approaches to control infectious agents while the elevator is stationary, and support for a precautionary approach towards elevator use amidst a pandemic.

Publication date: 
September 19, 2023
Publication type: 
Journal Articles
Michael J. Kado, Kelsi Perttula, Elizabeth M. Noth, David Moore, Patton Khuu Nguyen, Charles Perrino, Mark Nicas, S. Katharine Hammond, "Elevator Ventilation and SARS-CoV-2-Relevant Particulate Matter Removal in Three Older California Elevators", Indoor Air, vol. 2023, Article ID 7664472, 10 pages, 2023. https://doi.org/10.1155/2023/7664472