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Why are airtight containment systems critical in hospital abatement and remediation jobs?

by | Nov 6, 2018 | Abatement, Building & Construction

We’ve talked a lot about the importance of airtight barriers for abatement at Tape University®, but this month we’re going to dive deeper and take a closer look at the real-life hazards that go unseen. Things like microorganisms, dust particles and airborne mold – things that often go ignored because they can only be seen under a microscope. The truth is that these threats are real – and they can have serious consequences.

Follow along with us each Tuesday in November for an in-depth look at the threats that can only be contained by a barrier that is airtight – and how to ensure a successful job every time.

When you think of places that require abatement and remediation professionals to clean up, hospitals are, admittedly, not likely to be the first place you think of. That’s because hospitals are known for being sterile – almost overly clean – because they have such high sanitation standards to maintain. However, every healthcare facility will at some point be due for remediation, remodel, or repair. And while there hopefully won’t be anything dangerous (like mold!) found during these jobs, there is always a risk to the health of those in the facility when demolition occurs due to the particles that are released into the air and the potential for bacteria and viruses from sick patients to spread to unaffected areas.

Let’s take a look at some of the threats:


Despite their near-constant state of sterility, hospitals contain a lot of disease-causing bacteria. Not sure that bacteria pose a true threat? Consider the numbers:

  • Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial illness that spreads through the air when exposed to infected individuals. In 2016, there were 9,272 reported cases of TB in the US alone.
  • MRSA, an antibiotic-resistant bacterial disease, is the cause of approximately 94,000 infections and 18, 650 deaths annually. Of those impacted, 8% acquired the infection by being exposed to a contaminated object or MRSA carrier in a hospital.
  • Legionella, a bacterial disease known for reproducing in stagnant reservoirs of water, affects an estimated 20,000 people annually – 23% of which acquired the bacteria at a hospital.


Unlike bacteria, viruses are microscopic disease-causing agents that require a host in order to multiply – i.e, humans. They are not considered living organisms, and as such, are unable to be killed by antibiotics and other medications used to treat bacterial illness. Due to the nature of viral infections, preventing them from spreading between patients, staff, and visitors in hospitals is imperative. Viruses typically spread through sneezing, coughing, exhalation, and blood contact, and can enter the body through the eyes, nose, mouth, and any break in the skin, such as a cut or burn.

Some of the most common viruses found in healthcare include:

  • Hepatitis A, B, and C
  • HIV
  • Norovirus
  • Influenza

Unfortunately, hand sanitizer can only go so far in preventing the spread of infection when it comes to viral illness. That’s why it is so important for containment systems to be airtight during remediation projects in hospitals.

Dust and Allergens

Other hazards that can become airborne in hospitals include allergens such as dust, dirt, and dander. While these elements are not innately dangerous at low levels, they can cause anything from minor irritation to potentially life-threatening symptoms in patients with weakened immune systems, extreme sensitivity to allergens, or other pre-existing conditions that affect the lungs and breathing. The risk is in the not knowing – in a hospital, you never know what the patient in the next room is dealing with, and what the effects of the dust you kick up during the job could be. Because of this, it is always best practice to prioritize the quality of your containment system, making sure it is completely airtight with no compromised seals.

Safe abatement and remediation practices are part of maintaining a strict standard of sanitation in hospitals and other healthcare centers, areas that function as places where sick and healthy people interact with one another – and where those who are at the highest risk of contracting serious illnesses (or illnesses that pose a greater threat to their bodies than others) tend to be. In these situations, failing to keep a microscopic threat – things like bacteria, viruses, and dust particles – can literally be the difference between life and death in certain patients. That’s why it is so critical for abatement and remediation professionals to get the job done right by constructing containment systems that are 100% airtight.

To put it in perspective – each year, there are approximately 2 million hospital acquired infections, with 110,000 resulting in death. In comparison, 33,000 deaths per year are caused by vehicular accidents and 16,000 by homicides. The risks of hospital acquired infections are high, but there are ways to help prevent them and lower that statistic.

Tape’s Role

Whether using the one-step method or the two-step method, building a traditional containment system requires tape. Poly sheeting is adhered to all of the entrances where contaminants in the air can escape, particularly through doorframes and windows. Other openings may also be sealed off, such as sections of a hallway. With so much on the line, having a tape that is not only easy to use but is reliable enough to create an airtight seal AND maintain its hold for the entire duration of the project is critical. A failed seal – even one that only slightly misses the “airtight” mark – can have devastating consequences.

To learn how to stock your toolbox with the reliable tapes you will need on jobs in hospitals, visit Shurtape.com.

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