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Your Children Are Vulnerable to Air Pollution!

By October 24, 2018 May 4th, 2020 No Comments
11–13 minutes to read

Over the past 30 years, state and federal initiatives designed to improve air quality have made great strides towards reducing air pollution levels. While things have indeed improved and the days of smog-covered cities that defined life in the 50s are long behind us, it’s hard to deny that commercial air filtration is still necessary in many parts of the world.

Among the many measures used to fight pollution levels include the push for:

  • Stricter standards for vehicle emissions
  • The use of “cleaner” fuels
  • Cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy
  • Improved public transport to reduce the number of cars on roads

Together, these strategies have resulted in a dramatic reduction in air pollution levels in major metropolitan cities in the United States. But there is still much to be done, and a growing body of literature suggests that children may be paying the price for it.

“Over the last few decades we have seen an increase in the incidences of respiratory diseases among children,” said Camfil USA’s Charlie Seyffer, Manager of Marketing & Technical Materials for commercial air filters and 37-year ASHRAE member and active committee participant. “Asthma is perhaps the most common respiratory disease among children, followed by other health problems such as allergic reactions, bronchitis, and respiratory infections.”

Not surprisingly, the increase in these health issues among children has been connected to air pollution.

Why Children May Benefit More from High Efficiency Air Filters

According to the American Lung Association, children are especially susceptible to the health effects of air pollution because their lungs are still growing and developing, hence their need for high efficiency air filters.

This susceptibility is further compounded by the unique habits, characteristics, and behaviors of children.

  • Because children are usually more active than adults, they tend to breathe in a greater amount of air.
  • Not only do both children and infants breathe more rapidly than adults, they usually do it through their mouths, bypassing the natural filtration that happens when a person breathes through their nose.
  • Children also spend significantly more time outdoors than adults, especially in the warmer months of the year when smog levels and allergens like pollen and dust are usually at their highest.
  • Children also have narrower airways that are more likely to be obstructed by allergic reactions from air pollution.

“The health effects of air pollution go beyond respiratory problems,” adds Seyffer. “For example, when a child inhales lead particles circulating in the air, they can deposit themselves in the child’s rapidly growing bones.”

There’s a host of airborne contaminants that, when inhaled by a child, can affect the development of his or her nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, making them prone to cancer later in life.

Commercial HEPA Air Filtration Systems Can Remove Pollutants Affecting Children

The Clean Air Act recognizes the health hazards of common air pollutants, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies as “criteria” air pollutants. By far, the most common criteria pollutants are ozone and particulate matter (PM)—substances commercial high efficiency air filtration systems are designed to capture and remove.

Particulate matter is composed of microscopic particles around the same size as a one-hundredth the width of a strand of hair and smaller. Although when we think of particulate matter the first things that come to mind are particles from diesel equipment, smoke from cigarettes, and industrial runoff, it can also come from natural sources such as forest fires, pollen, and dust among many others.

Either way, PM can cause problems when inhaled—something that can be especially dangerous among the elderly, expecting mothers, children, and people with existing respiratory and cardiovascular issues. PM can bypass the body’s natural “filters” and end up deep in the smallest alveoli of the lungs. When this happens, PM can trigger allergic reactions and respiratory problems like coughing, wheezing, runny nose, and even headaches. It can also be transferred to the blood creating additional health havoc.

Prolonged exposure to PM can also affect the growth of lungs in children, an effect observed in children that grew up in smoggier parts of the country.

Do Commercial High Efficiency Filters Remove Ozone?

Yes, commercial high efficiency carbon filters can remove ozone (O3), also known as the major component of smog. Ozone forms through atmospheric chemical reactions between sunlight and various gases found in industrial emissions and motor vehicle exhaust such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

More importantly, ozone can be a dangerous respiratory irritant known to cause:

  • Inflammation in the lungs
  • Temporarily reduced lung function
  • Chest pains
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing

For children who are already asthmatic, exposure to high ozone levels can exacerbate their symptoms. If it happens repeatedly, ozone exposure may permanently reduce lung function.

Will Spending More Time Indoors under the Protection of HVAC Air Filters Help?

Most people think the solution to air pollution is to spend more time indoors, where the air, “treated” by a heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) unit, is safe to breathe. After all, don’t HVAC air filters remove all impurities from the air?

This mentality, however, is not the case. The paper filters that usually come with furnaces and air conditioning units are designed to protect the machine from dust and debris, ensuring that it runs without using too much energy. These filters don’t actually treat the air that people breathe, not when their purpose is to prevent dust, hair, and other debris from clogging the furnace or AC unit.

Sure, HVAC air filters still offer some degree of air filtration action, but this is merely a fortunate consequence of what they’re really designed to do—to protect the HVAC system.

In contrast, high efficiency filters are designed to capture and remove very small particles that can be detrimental to human health. That includes dust, debris, allergens, mold, mildew, and pet dander, all of which can compromise a child’s respiratory health.

It’s precisely for this reason that high efficiency filters are found in places that require a high degree of air sanitization, such as schools, commercial facilities, manufacturing sites, and medical facilities.

Protecting Children Requires Going Beyond Commercial High Efficiency Air Filters

Study after study on air pollution and its effects on children’s health point to the obvious: improving air quality will also improve children’s health. This effort, however, requires more than just depending on the ability of commercial air filters to purify the air.

For starters:

  • Clean your living spaces to reduce the likelihood of dust, dust mites, and pet dander from circulating in the air.
  • Clean or remove surfaces with signs of water damage. These surfaces are the perfect breeding ground for disease-causing mold and mildew.
  • Service the air filter in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Other measures you can take to support your child’s lung function include:

  • Ensure your child gets enough exercise. The combination of poor air quality and lack of physical activity can make children more susceptible to the effects of pollution. A child who exercises regularly also has stronger lungs and cardiovascular system.
  • Ensure your child has proper nutrition. Diet can have just as significant an impact on lung health as air quality.

If you are interested in learning about improving your indoor air quality with commercial air filtration systems from by Camfil USA, please click here.


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Lynne Laake

Camfil USA Air Filters

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