Preventing upper respiratory tract infections with ion air disinfection

Renate Weisböck-Erdheim discusses the AirDisP_URTI study that is testing the effectiveness of ion air disinfection in the workplace for the prevention of upper respiratory tract infections, registered at the ISRCTN registry.

Upgrading workplace health: The impact of ion air disinfection on upper respiratory tract infections and well-being

Uper respiratory tract infection in the workplace
© Liubomir /

Upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) are a global health concern, not only due to the distress they cause but also because of their significant economic implications. These infections, while typically not life-threatening, can severely affect the quality of life and productivity of individuals.

Understanding the transmission of URTIs through aerosols is crucial, and this study sought to investigate whether air ion disinfection can be an effective preventive health measure to mitigate URTIs in the workplace, thus improving overall workability and productivity. This blog highlights the key findings from the AirDisP_URTI study conducted during the fall/winter of 2022/23.

Unveiling the study’s framework and methodology

This study was an interventional, double-blind, randomized controlled trial, involving 150 participants. The subjects were divided into two groups: 73 individuals were provided with Cubusan ion air purification devices (the intervention group), while the remaining 77 received dummy devices (the control group). The primary outcome parameter was evaluated using the Wisconsin Upper Respiratory Symptom Survey (WURSS-21). Additionally, the study involved health check-ups every two months, including questionnaires on health-related quality of life, workability, physical activity, recovery/stress, sleep patterns, and household composition. Saliva samples were collected to measure immunological and inflammatory surrogate parameters. Aerobic endurance performance was assessed using the Chester-Step-Test. Data analysis was performed using the R-GNU software environment, with statistical significance set at a level of p < 0.05.

Promising results: The power of ion air disinfection

Laptop keyboard with plant growing on it.
© [M] troyanphoto /
Out of the 150 participants, 56 reported URTIs during the study period. Notably, the risk of URTIs was 21% higher in the control group compared with the intervention group, indicating the effectiveness of ion air disinfection.

Moreover, the control group experienced more severe symptoms compared with the intervention group, underlining the potential benefits of this intervention.

The science of sleep: Quantity matters

There was also a significant difference between the two groups in sleep quantity, with 41% of sick individuals in the control group reporting “less sleep than usual” compared with only 12% in the intervention group. This suggests that the intervention group experienced longer nighttime rest even when affected by URTIs.

Environmental factors: The link to well-being

The study also examined the relationship between various environmental factors and their effects on human well-being and quality of life. The results revealed some intriguing correlations: particulate matter count, respirable surface area, and particulate matter (0.3µ) were negatively related to well-being, quality of life, and sleep quantity. Higher levels of these particulate matter components were associated with lower well-being and quality of life. Larger particulate matter was found to be more prevalent at higher relative humidity. However, larger particulate matter had a positive effect on quality of life and contributed to less stress, more rest, and better well-being.

The presence of negative ions at the highest level was associated with improved quality of life, improved ability to work, lower stress and better rest.

The potential of ion air disinfection

This study of ion air disinfection shows promising results in reducing URTI and alleviating symptoms. The present results suggest that ion air disinfection has the potential to improve health-related quality of life and, consequently, workplace productivity. Further studies are imperative to establish a larger body of evidence.

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