Contamination of Air and Surfaces in Workplaces with SARS-CoV-2 Virus: A Systematic Review

John W. Cherrie, Mark P. C. Cherrie, Alice Smith, David Holmes, Sean Semple, Susanne Steinle, Ewan Macdonald, Ginny Moore, Miranda Loh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


OBJECTIVES: This systematic review aimed to evaluate the evidence for air and surface contamination of workplace environments with SARS-CoV-2 RNA and the quality of the methods used to identify actions necessary to improve the quality of the data.

METHODS: We searched Web of Science and Google Scholar until 24 December 2020 for relevant articles and extracted data on methodology and results.

RESULTS: The vast majority of data come from healthcare settings, with typically around 6% of samples having detectable concentrations of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and almost none of the samples collected had viable virus. There were a wide variety of methods used to measure airborne virus, although surface sampling was generally undertaken using nylon flocked swabs. Overall, the quality of the measurements was poor. Only a small number of studies reported the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA, mostly just reporting the detectable concentration values without reference to the detection limit. Imputing the geometric mean air concentration assuming the limit of detection was the lowest reported value, suggests typical concentrations in healthcare settings may be around 0.01 SARS-CoV-2 virus RNA copies m-3. Data on surface virus loading per unit area were mostly unavailable.

CONCLUSIONS: The reliability of the reported data is uncertain. The methods used for measuring SARS-CoV-2 and other respiratory viruses in work environments should be standardized to facilitate more consistent interpretation of contamination and to help reliably estimate worker exposure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)879–892
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Work Exposures and Health
Issue number8
Early online date30 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • SARS-CoV-2
  • aerosol
  • fomite
  • hospital
  • surface
  • transportation
  • virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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