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How this 150 year-old company is boosting air filtration in commercial spaces amid COVID-19

Lydall's president and CEO, Sara Greenstein joins Yahoo Finance's On the Move to talk about how her company is improving ventilation and air filtration in commercial spaces and beyond.

Video Transcript

JULIE HYMAN: There's a big push to get better filtration internally, not to mention schools. I didn't even get-- don't get me started on schools. Sara Greenstein is with us now. She is Lydall President and CEO, joining us from Connecticut. This is a company that makes some of the materials for those filtration systems. And Sara, I would imagine that you have seen a pretty substantial uptick in demand for these items. What exactly is the demand for for you guys, and where is it coming from?

SARA GREENSTEIN: Sure, Julie, thanks. So Lydall has made specialty filtration for over a century, believe it or not. And we are all over the world doing so. Pre-COVID, we made filtration media for-- you might have heard of MERV, MERV 13. In our homes, we likely have MERV 8. What the CDC stated in early July is that every commercial building, and school, to your point, prior to reopening, should upgrade their filtration to MERV 13.

Lydall makes all of those materials. The demand has increased significantly. Interestingly enough, the same filtration in the masks, N95 masks and surgical masks, that middle layer, the layer that protects us from getting COVID and the spread of COVID, we also make. So when COVID hit, we shifted all of our capacity to trying to meet the world's demand of the filtration media for PPE.

And as we're adding new capacity, that I can see you might be showing now, we're going to expand our ability to not only serve the PPE market, but also the specialty filtration market. And so for your next question, which I'll ask on behalf [INAUDIBLE]--

ADAM SHAPIRO: Let me-- let me-- let me jump in. I know nothing about filtration, other than switching out an old AC unit when I live in Cleveland. When you say MERV 13, are you talking about the webbing that-- that would catch the virus? Is that what that means? And how quickly could we get all of the office buildings nationwide converted to MERV 13?

SARA GREENSTEIN: So-- so probably what you bought in Cleveland was a MERV 8, and what that did is caught particles that were three microns or larger. And when you hear more 13, it means that that filter will catch particles that are 0.3 microns. Now, for those of you that don't live in the micron world, that's 1/100th the size of a human hair.

So when you think about the difference between something we'll probably all have in our homes today versus what everybody is shifting towards, that's how much more fine that-- that-- that interweaving that you just talked about and the ability to catch particles. Most viruses and bacteria can be caught by a MERV 13. So to some extent, to your question how quickly, in most buildings, especially newer buildings, you can go and buy a MERV 13 rated filter, put that in your current system, and have the solution.

That can be done very quickly. I'll tell you, my son's high school wouldn't open until they were able to get MERV 13 filters throughout the system. I think that's a pretty common exercise that's going on right now. And what I would tell you is that amidst of COVID and how do we get back to any semblance of normality, it's the combination of wearing the masks, which provides individual protection, and upgrading the filtration systems, which can be as simple, and I would argue in most cases is as simple, is getting a MERV 13 reading in your already-engaged HVAC system that you've really done a lot to protect yourselves. And I mean, I saw [INAUDIBLE] on the everyday battle, right, against this COVID virus that we're dealing with a world over.

- Sara, how hard is it to-- to get these installed? I guess, how much would they cost? Are you working with school districts or-- or, you know, hospitals, facilities, along those lines, to lower pricing? And I guess, you know, what really is kind of the-- the preventative aspect of it, as far as what's the active part of these filters that catches the virus?

SARA GREENSTEIN: Sure. So a few things-- Lydall makes the filtration media that then goes into a filter. We don't actually make the filter, Dan. So we, you know, I-- I call it, it's what's inside matters, whether it's your mask that you wear or your filtration system at home and what's filtration medias inside your filter. That's what Lydall makes.

In terms of, how does it actually work? Again, as I talked about an example of a MERV 8 to a MERV 13, that rating scale goes all the way up to 16, which means at 16 you are able to contract and contain yet smaller particle matters, and then you might have also heard of HEPA and ULPA. In hospitals, you're going to have HEPA grade, in airplanes you're going to have HEPA grade, and then ULPA would be used for things like clean rooms, where microchips, et cetera, are made.

So-- so how that material evolves is, to some extent, a proprietary process, manufacturing process, of the raw materials, the manufacturing process, and an electrostatic charge that ultimately is what enables that media, that filtration media, to do what I just described.

JULIE HYMAN: Sara, the team is loving the deep dive we are getting into filtration technology right now. Thank you so much, appreciate it. Sara Greenstein is president and CEO of Lydall. Appreciate it.