Air QualityResidential Air Filters

Why Seniors Have a More Urgent Need for Home Air Filters

By January 29, 2019 No Comments
11–13 minutes to read

Learn why outdoor and indoor air quality is more urgent to the elderly and their health, and how home air filters can help address this issue.

Camfil Residential Air Filter News – The growing demand for home air filters in the United States comes alongside increased awareness about the health dangers of air pollution. This demand also comes after repeated warnings from organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) about the potential health issues caused by exposure to air pollution. These dangers are particularly pronounced among young children, expecting mothers, and the elderly, causing all kinds of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

According to a new study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, consistent exposure to high levels of air pollution can also have an unexpected health issue—reduced cognitive function, manifesting in lower test scores in language and math.

Also, according to the researchers, the effect is worse for the elderly, especially individuals over the age of 64, as well as men and individuals with low educational attainment. They also add that the loss in cognitive function would be equivalent to a few years of education.

“We already know that air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk, recognized as the fourth leading cause of premature death in the world,” said Camfil USA’s Charlie Seyffer, Manager of Marketing & Technical Materials for commercial air filters and 37-year ASHRAE member and active committee participant. “The problem is that 95 percent of the world breathes polluted air, which gets worse in developing countries.”

Indoor Air Quality and Link to Brain Health

Researchers Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang of Beijing Normal University’s School of Statistics conducted their study in China, which has some of the worst air pollution in the world, causing serious indoor air quality issues in countless households across the nation.

They analyzed the language and math test scores of more than 20,000 Chinese people between 2010 and 2014, comparing the results with records of particulate matter (PM), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the atmosphere during the same period.

What they found was a possible correlation between air pollution and falling test scores, leading them to speculate that airborne pollutants may affect the brain’s white matter, which plays a critical role in a person’s language abilities. Moreover, because men tend to have less white matter in their brains than women, this may explain why the researchers found that men’s language and math abilities tend to suffer more from exposure to air pollution.

The research results, however, are far from conclusive, which is why Zhang and his colleagues emphasize the importance of further investigating how exactly air pollution affects the brain, and if other factors like sex, age, genetics, and diet also play a role.

Using High Efficiency Air Filtration Systems to Negate Health Effects of Air Pollution

High efficiency air filtration systems are important for seniors because many of them try to live healthier lifestyles by spending more time outdoors, whether it’s by walking around the neighborhood, doing tai chi, or joining yoga classes in the park.

In fact, the health benefits of light exercise outdoors for seniors are well-documented. These include improved lung function, improved cardiovascular function, reduction of heart disease and stroke, improved management of diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, and joint and muscle pain.

But a study published in the Lancet suggests that outdoor air pollution can negate any benefits of light exercise outdoors, especially in urban environments. The researchers surveyed more than a hundred people over the age of 60, asking them to spend time walking outdoors.

One group of seniors was tasked to do their walking on a busy street in downtown London, while other groups walked in the park. The research participants were a mix of healthy individuals, while others had manageable symptoms of heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

Interestingly, the research team found that the seniors who had done their walking in the park enjoyed lower blood pressure and better flexibility in their arteries, while those who had walked in downtown London barely experienced any observable benefits, if at all.

The researchers suspect that the group of seniors that walked downtown was probably exposed to higher levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide from cars and trucks, which negated the health benefits of their light exercise.

How Home Air Purifiers Prevent Other Diseases

Aside from preventing air pollution from affecting brain and lung function, home air purifiers can also help prevent and manage the symptoms of heart disease and diabetes, with recent studies linking air pollution with cardiovascular problems and heightened levels of blood glucose.

“The growing body of literature on air pollution has allowed us to shed more light on just how toxic it can be,” said Seyffer. “Now we know that polluted air also affects the heart, brain, and even the reproductive system.”

If anything, the complex impact of air pollution on our health shows just how interconnected the different organ systems of the human body are. For instance, while we know that the air pollution affects the lungs the most, they are also the entry portal for airborne pollutants to reach the other vital organs like the brain, liver and immune system.

When fine particulate matter enters the lungs, for example, the particles can penetrate its deepest recesses and cross into the bloodstream. From here, these particles can wind up virtually anywhere in the body.

Still, the brain represents a unique challenge, mainly because there’s much about it that we still don’t know. Moreover, a large number of factors could affect its health and function, from pollution and diet to age and genetics.

Study Shows Homes Near Major Roads Need Home Air Filtration Systems the Most

Another study suggests that individuals who live in homes and buildings near major roads, which tend to have higher concentrations of air pollution due to road congestion and the sheer volume of vehicles passing by the area, may be more prone to developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life. This study only helps highlight the importance of installing home air filtration systems in homes and buildings in air pollution hotspots.

But like the study authored by Zhang and his colleagues, scientists still have to look into whether this correlation is caused by exposure to air pollution from passing cars and trucks, vibrations and noise that can also affect brain function or other causal factors. Poor diet may also be a factor, as low-income communities tend to live near major roads.

If researchers succeed in identifying air pollution as a culprit for Alzheimer’s disease, the next and more difficult step is to pinpoint which airborne pollutants are guilty of causing neurodegenerative issues.

Why Home Air Purification Systems Are More Urgent than Ever

In any case, home air purification systems with true HEPA filters are designed to capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles down to 0.3 microns in diameter. But not all air filter systems are built the same, which is why it’s important to consult a reliable air filter manufacturer to discuss your options.

At Camfil USA, we know how important it is to keep the air inside your home clean and safe to breathe. Get in touch with our team to learn more about how you can protect your indoor spaces from air pollution. You may also explore our catalog of home air filters to learn more about our products.


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Lynne Laake

Camfil USA Air Filters

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