Air Purifiers (filters) are not enough for your health

January 27, 2020

Air Purifiers (filters) are not enough for your health

Air purifiers are all the rage right now. From Bushfires to Air Pollution to Corona virus everybody wants their air to be cleaner: a lot cleaner. Let us help you understand how to get the best quality air you possibly can for you and your family.

With deep industry experience and a scientific background, in this article, we bring you no-nonsense advice designed to help you understand what you need to breathe easy.

Unfortunately, most of the public discussion (on social media and otherwise) is largely limited to mechanical devices that perform air filtration. But that is just one part of the story! Like wearing a t-shirt without putting on the rest of your clothes; not quite enough protection. So too, is the "pure air" story much bigger!

Below we explain why “pure air” is not the goal; “clean air” is what you want. We run you through:

  • The definition of “pure air” and help demystify the standards for you
  • Why you should strive for “clean air” in the places you spend the most time
  • Putting it all together; a multi-layered approach to making sure that you get the cleanest air possible

 Definition of "pure air"?

There is not one, but many definitions of air. Here are three professional definitions.

  • The Webster dictionary defines air as "the mixture of invisible odourless tasteless gases (such as nitrogen and oxygen) that surrounds the earth". 
  • The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry(IUPAC) definition says "The composition of air is variable with respect to its components (e.g. CH4, CO2, H2O) so 'pure' air has no precise meaning.  It is commonly considered to be air which is free of dust, aerosols and reactive gaseous contaminants of anthropogenic origin".
  • If you visit Wikipedia here, you will find the below table and much more detailed information about atmospheric air composition.

composition of dry clean air near sea level according to standard ISO 2533 - 1975 for Standard atmosphere

Gas

Content of volume %

Nitrogen, N2

78.084

Oxygen, O2

20.9476

Argon, Ar

0.934

Carbon dioxide, CO2

0.0314 *

Neon, Ne

1.818×10−3

Helium, He

524×10−6

Krypton, Kr

114×10−6

Xenon, Xe

8.7×10−6

Hydrogen, H2

50×10−6

Nitrous oxide, N2O

50×10−6

Methane, CH4

0.2×10−3

Ozone, O3, in summer

up to 7.0×10−6 *

Ozone, O3, in winter

up to 2.0×10−6 *

Sulphur dioxide, SO2

up to 0.1×10−3 *

Nitrogen dioxide, NO2

up to 2.0×10−6 *

Iodine, I2

1.0×10−6*

* The content of the gas may undergo significant variations from time to time or from place to place.

 

If you search the internet you will find even more definitions, however, as per IUPAC, the composition of air is variable with respect to its components, such that there can be no definition for "pure air".

Instead, it is probably more helpful to think of air as a formula instead:

The Air You Breathe = Standard Air Composition + Benign Additions + Contaminants

To break that down:

  • Standard Air Composition as per table above 
  • Benign additions to the air are the extra “flavour” that is added to the air that is not generally harmful. Like smelling the pure salt in the sea breeze.
  • Contaminants, on the other hand, are harmful. Think of the smoke from bushfires, or the exhaust from cars or even bacteria and mould from coughing people or damp rooms.

In contrast, “clean air” is just “The Air You Breath” with as little of the “Contaminants” as possible. 

This is why the approach to "pure air" is about removing contaminants, cleaning the air, and making it safer for living. 

What standards are there?

Internationally, there are guidelines for maximum levels of contamination of harmful pollutants. It is important to note that a guideline is just that, not a standard. In the absence of a definition of what air should be, guidelines are developed based on what we don't want in the air. That is, remove the contaminants.

Let's look at some expert bodies.

    • The Australian Government Department of Environment and Energy publishes a quality fact sheet that lists the maximum pollutant levels in the air 
    • World Health Organisation on their air pollution page state "Particles with a diameter of less than 10 microns (PM10), including fine particles less than 2.5 microns (PM2.5) pose the greatest risks to health, as they are capable of penetrating peoples’ lungs and entering their bloodstream."  you can see that WHO set guidelines listed here.  An extract from one of the guidelines says "Prior to 2009, WHO had not produced guidelines for indoor air quality outside of occupational settings, and no internationally agreed health-based guidance with recommendations for policy was available on how to effectively address the public health impacts of household fuel combustion. In recent years, WHO has been addressing this need through the development of a series of guidelines for indoor air quality. (AQGs). In 2005, when the global update of ambient (outdoor) air quality guidelines was prepared, it became clear that there was a need for guidance on indoor air quality. A planning meeting held in Bonn in 2006 set out the path for this work, and included plans for three indoor AQG volumes:
      • 1. dampness and mould (published in 2009) (12)
      • 2. selected pollutants (published in 2010) (13)
      • 3. household fuel combustion (these guidelines)"
      • these guidelines can be found here

When do we need air purification?

The objective of air purification is to breathe the cleanest air possible so that maximum human health is maintained. 

We need clean air for 

  • Clean manufacturing processes
  • Clean medical environments
  • All indoor environments (like your home, office, car, bus, train, plane etc) where life is concentrated (human or animal) to reduce human health issues - SARS, Asthma, other respiratory illnesses, skin rashes, constant sickness, itchy eyes, rashes, and much worse

What are the key pollutants?

The key ones are listed below and you can find out more on various government sites. For example the NSW Government.

  • Particulate matter
    • airborne mould and bacteria - When it comes to mould, by the time you see or smell mould you have a sizeable problem! These can be lower than PM2.5
    • smoke from multiple sources like wildfire
    • from natural events volcanic eruptions
  • Ozone (O3)
  • Nitrogen dioxide (NO2)
  • Carbon monoxide (CO)
  • Sulphur dioxide (SO2)
  • Lead
  • Air toxics
    • Air toxics are another group of air pollutants that are typically present in low concentrations in the air but have toxic characteristics that may result in health effects from exposure even at low levels. Sources of air toxics include motor vehicle exhaust and some commercial and industrial processes.
    • In 2004, the National Environment Protection Council made the National Environment Protection (Air Toxics) Measure which addresses the five priority air toxics: benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, xylenes and benzo (a) pyrene (as a marker for polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons).

What techniques/methods are there to purify the air?

You will find that air purification has been addressed to-date through filtration solutions that only reduce the contamination of the air, not solve the problem.

Methods

 

Natural purifier gels

SAN-AIRtm is a gel that evaporates into the air and neutralizes germs whenever it comes into contact with them. Made from certified organic ingredients, under strict quality systems. 

Independently university tested to deliver a highly effective product for mould and bacterial control whilst safe for use around humans and animals.  No other gel has this level of validation.

The SAN-AIRtm product evaporates slowly and over a short period of time, will come into contact with the airborne dust particles and pollen which carries the bacteria and mould which affect the immune system. This contact causes the bacteria to stop multiplying and the mould to dry up, even down to the root system which usually embeds in the substrate the mould is using to grow.

 The key benefits of SAN-AIRtm products are:

  • Highly effective against mould at low levels of product concentration
  • Safe for people and pets, safe to breathe, safe to touch
  • No Toxic Chemicals
  • Independently validated by universities and private bodies
  • Food Safe certified
  • Meets requirement by US EPA absence of any toxic volatiles
  • Biodegradable

Filtration systems

Typically 3-10 micron filters

All types of air conditioners

  • ducted
  • split system
  • desktop air purifiers

 

Air filter arrestance is the measure of how well an air filter removes particles such as dirt, lint, hair, and dust. Air filters can be supplied in a range of efficiencies.  HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are used in cleanrooms in many different industries, including semiconductor, pharmaceutical medical devices, nuclear, and biotechnology.

The way to understand arrestance clearly is that if arrestance is 80% then 20% will still get through into the indoor space.

Mould can be measured at less than 1 micron.  It is so small that it will always be able to get through. Having run a pharmaceutical manufacturing entity I can tell you that it does get through, even with HEPA filters.

SAN-AIR will address the 20%(or more) that gets through!.

Ozone

UV light

electrostatic precipitation

These allow the air to go through the device and be cleaned only to let the air be re-contaminated when released back into the indoor environment. 

Ozone and UV light are internationally recognised as dangerous to humans at the levels needed to be effective (high human mortality rate at 100 parts per billion exposure - see WHO and EPA guidelines).

 

Proponents that say indoor plants clean the air naturally do not take into account that a plant will not filter all the air of a room nor remove mould and bacteria.  At best they are reducing the carbon dioxide and increasing the oxygen.  Recent research looking at decades of research suggesting that potted plants can improve the air in homes and offices reveals that natural ventilation far outpaces plants when it comes to cleaning the air.  “This has been a common misconception for some time. Plants are great, but they don’t actually clean indoor air quickly enough to have an effect on the air quality of your home or office environment,” said Michael Waring, PhD, an associate professor of architectural and environmental engineering in Drexel’s College of Engineering.  Read more about this research here.

SAN-AIR specialises in controlling germ content, using over 20 years of experience in the wellness field. 




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