It turns out that the air purification systems that one local company has been making for several years to combat the anthrax spore have an increasingly timely and valuable use.
LifeAire Systems, an Upper Macungie Township company that creates in-duct air purification systems that remove airborne pathogens such as COVID-19, is looking to produce more. The company developed the technology for the in vitro fertilization industry and installed it in its first hospital a couple years ago.
“We are doing whatever we can to help,” said Kathryn Worrilow, founder and CEO of LifeAire Systems. “We are in a lot of conversations; we have been getting a lot of calls from people looking to put more aggressive plans in place.”
Her company has also gotten requests to put these systems in tents outside hospitals and healthcare facilities.
LifeAire Systems did not design the systems for residential use but for installing in hospitals, healthcare settings, and senior living facilities. Today, the company installed the technology in more than 50 in vitro fertilization programs in the U.S. and the company completed its first installation in a long-term care facility, Worrilow said. LifeAire could also use the systems for the current COVID-19 pandemic as part of the air handlers that help protect healthcare workers and patients in modular tents that are supporting hospitals.
The company can retrofit the systems into existing air handlers in hospitals, health care settings, and in senior living facilities as part of the solution to address potential future pandemics.
Locally, LifeAire has a purification unit it installed at St. Luke’s Hospital Allentown campus in 2018, the company’s first installation in a hospital. Currently, LifeAire is in discussions about installing more in different campuses, she said.
The LifeAire system at the Allentown campus is on a medical surgery floor. The company designed the air systems to remove airborne pathogens from the heating, ventilation and air conditioning circulation within the space, with the goal of reducing patient and staff exposure to airborne contaminants.
Worrilow, a scientist, said LifeAire has presented the results of recent research about these systems to a leading healthcare journal for publication and presented these results at two health care organizations. The research focused on the impact of the technology on the environment specific to the patient room, length of stay, and economics, she said.
“There were statistically significant reductions in length of stay and improvements in health care economics,” Worrilow said.
LifeAire’s systems complement surface decontamination protocols with a 100% kill/disinfection rate for airborne COVID-19 in one pass through the system.
“Any COVID-19 that goes through our system will be killed completely,” Worrilow said.
LifeAire uses a local company, H.T. Lyons, a mechanical contractor in Upper Macungie Township, to produce these systems. It also has a second supplier.
H.T. Lyons has created nearly all its systems, which includes 50 installations altogether.
“We will be on the supply side going into these new hospital sites,” Worrilow said.
LifeAire’s technology has received 26 issued U.S. and international patents, according to Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, an investor and supporter of LifeAire.
Currently, HEPA filtration, the most common means of air filtration used in health care, does not comprehensively remediate COVID-19.
LifeAire originally designed its system to kill anthrax because of the sensitivity of the human embryo. By setting the bar high, Worrilow said the company created a system that could remove all chemical and biochemical contaminants from the air.
Her company has about nine employees and formed nine years ago, but did not launch this LifeAire System product until five years ago to ensure it had enough proof and data to support it.
In regards to COVID-19, she recommended that each person take individual responsibility.
“It’s our own responsibility to follow this very seriously,” Worrilow said. “We all need to be heeding these precautions. We each have to do the right thing.”