Up in the Air – Bi-polar Ionization in Meat Packing Facilities
As meat and poultry operations across the nation work to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in processing facilities, they’re taking the fight to the air. In part, that’s due to mounting scientific evidence that indicates the highly infectious novel coronavirus, also known as SARS-CoV-2, is transmitted through air, not just by person-to-person (via respiratory droplets) or surface contact alone.
None of this is particularly good news for meat processing plants, where Covid-19 prevention and intervention tactics have focused on intensified sanitation measures for facilities and surfaces. With a more robust understanding of a facility’s airflow patterns and adopting some of today’s advanced air cleaning technologies – meat and poultry processors can step up their air defense strategies as part of an effective multi-barrier approach to reducing COVID-19 in the plant.
JBS USA has invested millions in plasma bipolar ionization technology across its beet: pork, and poultry plants “to ensure the best possible air quality for our team members,” according to Eduardo Noronha, global head of operational excellence at JBS USA.
Plasma bipolar ionization technology is used across multiple industries to remove smoke and VOCs [volatile organic compounds], as well as microorganisms like bacteria and viruses, he says. Ionizers emit negative ions, which attach to the positive ions of airborne particulates and chemically disrupt cells or molecules to neutralize pollutants such as microorganisms effectively. Unlike other ionization technologies, little to no ozone is generated when ionizing the air. According to third-party testing published by the ionizer manufacturer Plasma Air, the technology was shown to reduce airborne coronavirus surrogate by 99%.
“Where possible, the [plasma bipolar ionization technology is installed in supply air ducts of HVAC systems for maximum effectiveness,” Noronha explains, noting that portable units can also be utilized and are designed to circulate the air in a room through the unit. “Because we have large facilities and many HVAC systems, a significant number of these units were purchased to support all of our facilities.”
All of the beef, pork, and prepared foods manufacturer’s facilities have incorporated these air quality improvement technologies into their HVAC systems. Employees wear eye protection, masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment (PPE) while in production areas. “We specifically targeted welfare areas where employees must remove some amount of PPE such as bathrooms and cafeterias,” he adds.
This technology has been scientifically validated, and proven effective in other settings, such as hospitals, Noronha says, noting that “our initial results have been promising.”
“Due to the proven effectiveness – as well as the high adoption rate – of plasma bipolar ionization proven technologies, we were able to make this technology available for our employees much sooner than other technologies,” Noronha says of JBS’s decision to adopt the advanced air cleaning systems. “We also felt that these technologies were safer for our employees.”
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