Anonymous Study of Air & Surface Samples Finds 55% of Air We Breathe is Contaminated

R-Zero lists top common shared spaces most likely to pose health risks

SALT LAKE CITY, UT- Jun 9, 2022 -An anonymous study of random air and surface samples taken across the U.S. reveals significant air quality issues. According to the newly released study conducted by R-Zero, the air we breathe indoors is five times more contaminated than the surfaces we touch. The scientific random samples were taken anonymously by industrial hygienists over the last several months in locations throughout the U.S. and found an alarming number of harmful organisms that can lead to illness, compromised health and infection, and included everything from SARS-CoV-2 and Staphylococcus aureus to microbes that can cause skin disease and infections in the respiratory tract.

In cities like Austin, TX, three out of seven random air samples (or 43%) taken by the industrial hygienists tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. And, that location is not unique to the rest of the nation, according to R-Zero. The level of harmful organisms and skin cells found in indoor air may just be enough to make the average person want to avoid many shared spaces altogether. A hotel room, for example, contains an average of 2,500 skin cells (from other people) per cubic meter of air breathed by occupants. Additionally, the analysis found nearly all bathrooms sampled in San Francisco tested positive for potentially harmful surface microbes.

While not all the places where people are most likely to encounter a harmful microbe are surprising, for example, gas station bathrooms top the list, there are a few unexpected locations, such as high-end retail dressing rooms. Based on random air and surface samplings across the U.S., the highest risk areas to come into contact with a harmful microorganism are:

  • Public bathrooms
  • Gyms
  • Hotel lobbies and restaurants (each carry roughly 5,700 skin cells – other people’s skin cells – per cubic meter of air)
  • Bars
  • High-end fitting rooms and malls were hot spots for cross-contamination of potentially harmful microorganisms from places like hospitals to the community

Poor indoor air quality leads to a higher level of acute infection risk for diseases that airborne diseases and illnesses such as COVID, flu and colds. In addition, 63% of indoor areas sampled had a higher percentage of mold and fungi than outdoor areas, causing an increased risk indoors for allergies, asthma or other respiratory issues. The study highlights the alarming failures of existing building air management systems to manage harmful microbes in indoor shared spaces and the need to address this vital public health issue and improve indoor health quality more effectively and efficiently.

10% of surfaces contained harmful microorganisms but were five times more prevalent in the air in indoor spaces. We spend 90% of our time indoors, taking on average between 18,000 to 20,000 breaths a day, so the poor air quality right now is a massive concern,” said Dr. Richard Wade, Chief Scientist for R-Zero, and a leading expert in toxicology and microbiological contamination. “The pandemic made us more aware of the air we breathe as a transmitter of potentially harmful organisms. Indoor spaces and the quality of the air in them directly impact human health, and we need to improve the health and safety of our shared spaces. The standard way of doing this is failing.

For the study, 600 random air and surface samples were conducted in locations across the U.S. between January and March of this year.

About R-Zero:

R-Zero is the first tech company dedicated to making our shared indoor spaces safer, healthier, and more productive. Backed by Mayo Clinic and the earliest investors in Google, Amazon, Tesla, and SpaceX, R-Zero is dedicated to developing the most effective and innovative disinfection technologies to reduce the spread of microorganisms in the built environment. Combining space utilization sensor technology, AI, ML, and IoT-connected hardware, R-Zero’s intelligent platform enables organizations to create and maintain healthier indoor environments. Today, the company’s sustainable, IoT-enabled disinfection technologies enable safer, healthier indoor spaces for hundreds of thousands of people across both public and private sector organizations without using chemicals. R-Zero’s system of connected technologies provides greater visibility, automation, and even smarter risk reduction within the indoor spaces where people spend their time. R-Zero is backed by leading venture capital firms DBL Partners, World Innovation Lab, and SOSV/HAX; Mayo Clinic; and thought leaders from hospitality, sports, commercial real estate, impact, and other industries. For more information, visit

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