Health: Air Purification

(air purification in the home, business, school, and workplace)

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The Challenge of Indoor Air Pollution

In recent years, many urban areas have made outdoor air pollution a major focus. As a result, many cities can now boast better air quality today than 20 years ago.

At the same time, indoor air pollution has actually gotten worse. Modern construction techniques have created buildings that are almost air tight, with improved building materials and insulation that minimize heating and cooling costs—but often trap air pollutants inside. Ironically, in many modern buildings, the outside air is often cleaner than the inside air!

No wonder there are so many cases of "sick building syndrome," Legionnaire's disease and other respiratory ailments caused by indoor air pollution. The situation is so serious that the Environmental Protection Agency now ranks indoor air quality as one of our most pressing environmental issues, saying indoor air is often found to be two to five times as polluted as outdoor air. Risk of illness is dramatically increased in indoor environments with such pollutant and irritant-rich air.

The Natural Solution

Fortunately, the solution to indoor air pollution is readily visible—in fact, it's right outside! Mother Nature has been cleaning the air for millions of years with perfect purification systems. Ever notice how fresh and sweet the air smells and feels after a thunderstorm passes? That's one of Mother Nature's air purification systems at work.

How Mother Nature Cleans the Air

In nature, the air is cleaned through many complex, interrelated events. The three most effective ways are:

  1. As the Sun's rays pass through the upper atmosphere, they generate ultraviolet germicidal light, which destroys germs, mold, and mildew. That's why mold and mildew don't grow in sunny locations.
  2. At the same time, when a specific wavelength of light passes through the atmosphere, it causes another reaction which transforms some of the oxygen (O2) into ozone (O3)—a powerful cleansing agent 300 times more efficient than the most commonly used household cleaner. Ozone is created when an electric spark, such as lightning, passes through oxygen.
  3. Lightening also imparts an electrical charge on particles of air. This process is known as ionization. The magnetic charge causes the particles to be attracted to each other, so they become heavier than air and fall to the ground.

Technology Harnesses the Power of Nature to Clean Indoor Air

Today, advances in technology have allowed hi-tech companies to utilize these same three principles that Mother Nature employs to clean indoor air. New units that fit conveniently on a shelf or counter are now available which purify indoor air in much the same way using ultraviolet germicidal light, ozone, and ionization. These units contain specially designed lamps that duplicate the exact wavelength nature uses to create UV germicidal light and ozone. As polluted air passes over these lamps, germs are destroyed.

Another lamp converts oxygen in the air to ozone. This ozone kills bacteria and freshens the air, while eliminating most odors including pet, urine, food, bathroom, and smoking odors. After about 20 minutes the ozone converts back to oxygen, leaving no residue or after effects. The ion generator charges air-borne particles like dust, pet dander, spores and other allergens, so they attach to each other and fall harmlessly to the floor.

This New Technology Makes HEPA Filters and Ordinary Ozone Generators Obsolete

HEPA filters only remove particulate matter. They do not purify the air with ozone. Unlike HEPA filters, the new generation UV/Ozone/Ionization units remove 90% of irritants like bacteria, mold, mildew, viruses, mites, smoke and dust particles. Another disadvantage to the old HEPA filter units is the expensive cost of changing the dirty filters.

Ordinary ozone generators use corona discharge plates to generate ozone. These plates are known to corrode easily and require regular maintenance. The new technology units have no such plates or messy filters and require little or no maintenance.

Allergy and Asthma Relief

Indoor air pollutants such as dust, pet dander, pollen, cigarette smoke and fertilizers can trigger allergies. Eliminating these irritants can bring welcome, drug-free relief to allergy sufferers. Although the new air purification units do not claim to bring about asthma relief, many asthma sufferers have incorporated them into their homes and offices in an effort to eliminate irritants and enhance air quality.

You've heard that stale office air or outdoor pollution can make you sick; but the latest studies show that what you're breathing at home sweet home, could be just as bad. Here's what you need to know to help you and your family breathe easier.

The bad news: New statistics suggest that the air in your home may be two to five times as polluted as the air outside. While recent controversy over "sick building syndrome" has raised public awareness about air quality in our offices and industrial spaces, the air in our houses has gone relatively unexamined, and you should care. Nine out of every ten breaths that you draw are likely drawn indoors: at school, the workplace, restaurants, movie theaters—and at home (as illustrated below).

House with potential pollution problems
  1. Attic:
    • Chemicals like benzine and styrene can gather in this area.
    • Fungi and bacteria can also build up.
  2. Bedroom:
    • Fluid residues from dry-cleaned clothes can produce irritating vapors.
    • Humidifiers can harbor bacteria, mildew, and viruses.
    • Dust mites exist everywhere, but they can be concentrated in closets and bedding.
  3. Kitchen:
    • Formaldehyde and fumes from pressed-wood furniture and cabinets can irritate.
    • Sulfur dioxide and other harmful chemicals can build up.
    • Pet odors and dander can linger throughout the house. "Dander" is the short form of "dandruff" and refers to the scurf from the coat of various animals; such as, as dogs, cats, or horses, often causing allergies.
    • Vapors can escape from household cleaning products.
  4. Floors:
    • Fumes can emanate from certain floor tiles, pipe insulation, etc.
  5. Living Room:
    • Fireplaces, stoves, and /or tobacco products produce lingering smoke.
    • Furniture, carpets, and drapes can produce harmful chemicals.
  6. Garage:
    • Exhaust from cars and other engines can remain in the air for a long time.
    • Fumes from improperly stored gas cans, paint, and yard chemicals can be dangerous.
  7. Bathroom:
    • Hydrocarbons, chloroform and formaldehyde can increase.
    • Aerosol products release harmful gases.

Note: These are common indoor air pollutants. They may or may not exist in your home or workplace; however, if they do, they can cause lung and breathing problems.

—This information was compiled from an article written by
Laura Pratt, published in Chatelaine, May, 1997.

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