Learn about the critical role played by commercial air filtration systems in safeguarding indoor air quality in hospitals around the world.
Hospitals tend to be hotbeds for air pollution due to having several sources of biological contaminants. It’s why these and other healthcare facilities require commercial air filtration systems, which play a vital role in preventing patients and healthcare workers from being exposed to contaminants such as bacteria, viruses, house dust, pollen, mites, cockroach droppings, and pest urine among many others according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
But it’s not just indoor air contaminants that hospitals have to worry about; according to a 2017 report using data from the previous year, more than half of all medical facilities in London are exposed to air pollution levels that exceed the legal limit. The study, published jointly this month by Kings College London and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change, notes that the dirty air poses a serious health problem to both patients and healthcare staff throughout the city.
“Outdoor air pollution has long been linked to a host of serious illnesses, including cancer, stroke, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity,” points out Camfil USA’s Charlie Seyffer, Manager of Marketing & Technical Materials for commercial air filters and 37-year ASHRAE member and active committee participant. “This means that hospital workers and patients are exposed to air pollutants on two fronts—indoors and outdoors.”
Findings Highlight Importance of Commercial HEPA Filters
In their analysis, Kings College London looked at the ambient air quality of 2,200 National Health Service (NHS) facilities, including hospitals, clinics, GP centers, and general healthcare facilities in London using data obtained from both the Greater London Authority (GLA) and Transport for London (TfL). Each medical facility’s location was cross-referenced with the air quality concentration points from Kings College London’s “KCL urban model,” allowing the researchers to determine which facility was located in a part of the city with particularly dirty air. In effect, this allowed the researchers to identify which hospitals or clinics had an urgent need for commercial high efficiency air filters.
The researchers found that at least 74 percent of medical facilities in inner London were situated in areas where concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) were far beyond the legal limit. On the other hand, 41 percent of the medical facilities they surveyed were blanketed by heavily polluted air. More disturbing, however, is the finding that high outdoor air pollution levels surrounded many of England’s largest acute care facilities and teaching hospitals.
What the Report Says about Indoor Air Quality in Hospitals
With more than half of NHS facilities covered in air pollution above legal limits, the joint report shows that health professionals are caring for patients in environments where the indoor air quality could very well aggravate their existing conditions, not to mention put healthcare workers at risk of becoming sick, which, in turn, places a financial strain on the hospital’s resources. The study, however, notes that children are the most susceptible to poor ambient air quality.
The study adds that common components found in air pollution include:
- Fine particulate matter (PM) – PM2.5, or particles smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter, are particularly dangerous because they are small enough to be carried through the air and inhaled. When this happens, the particles can penetrate the deepest parts of the lungs and cross into the bloodstream, making their way to the body’s vital organs. This absorption can cause health complications like diabetes, heart disease and neurological disorders among others.
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx) – Nitrogen oxide emissions can react with volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and sunlight to produce ozone—a primary component of smog and acid rain.
“Study after study tells us that PM and NOx emissions are linked to an increased risk of heart disease and respiratory diseases like COPD, asthma, and lung cancer,” said Seyffer. “For hospital patients, you can imagine that clean air is a matter of life and death.
Why Industrial Air Filtration Systems Offer the Solution to the Problem
As with other studies on air pollution, the joint paper identified the energy sector as the primary source of key airborne pollutants in London. The International Energy Agency (IEA) notes that energy generation accounts for 85 percent of particulate matter emissions and almost all emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur oxides released into the air every year. The good news is that industrial air filtration systems are capable of capturing and removing these pollutants in indoor and even outdoor environments.
The problem, however, is that not everyone enjoys the protection of air filter systems. In fact, an estimated 40,000 people prematurely die each year due to the exposure of dirty air in the United Kingdom alone. Furthermore, close to one in four people live in parts of London where air pollution levels exceed the legal limits set by the European Union.
This is precisely why research by institutions like Kings College London and the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change is so important, as they reveal the current state of the problem of air pollution. Previous work by Kings College played a vital role in identifying road vehicles as a primary cause of London’s air pollution woes, helping pave the way for initiatives such as the Low Emission Zone—a rule that penalizes pollution-spewing vehicles every time they enter the city’s center.
How Industrial Filter Air Purifiers Work
Industrial high efficiency air filters and air purifiers are designed to capture and remove airborne contaminants found in most hospitals and medical facilities. When attached to the facility’s central HVAC system, a proper high efficiency air filter can capture particulate matter, and allergens like dust and pollen as they pass through the duct system.
In fact, a true commercial high efficiency filter or purifier is capable of capturing up to 99 percent of dust, mold and pollen from the air. Not surprisingly, this has made air filtration systems an indispensable asset in many hospitals around the world.
And when paired with a molecular air filtration system that uses activated carbon, these air purifiers can also capture:
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are off-gassed by paint, solvents, construction materials, and fabrics
- Smoke from cooking, heating, lighting, and tobacco
- Exhaust fumes from vehicles
- Radon from building materials and soil
Unfortunately, high efficiency air filters are not designed to kill biological contaminants like bacteria and viruses. Although air filter technology has a long history in the biomedical industry, filters can only capture viruses and bacteria that cling to airborne particles. Once they are captured, the movement of air through the system, removes two things that all biologicals need to live, water and nutrients. Because of the captured contaminants and their possible viability, air filters should always be serviced by qualified personnel who take precautions to prevent cross-contamination.
Parting Thoughts on Industrial Air Purification Systems
When it comes to human health, nowhere are industrial air purification systems more important than in healthcare facilities like hospitals, urgent care centers, clinics, and even dental care facilities. In many of these settings, patients are already immune-compromised and much more susceptible to the health risks posed by airborne contaminants that would otherwise be handled by the body’s immune system. Likewise, doctors, nurses, medical staff, and visitors need air filters to reduce their exposure to biological contaminants, making it less likely for them to become sick.
For nearly 50 years, Camfil USA has designed and built air filtration systems for hospitals and healthcare facilities around the world. An air filter from Camfil USA is guaranteed to provide excellent protection from airborne contaminants found in medical facilities, particularly when used as part of an overall air quality control program. Talk to the Camfil USA team today to learn more about our line of air filters for hospitals and healthcare facilities.
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