Learn how poor outdoor and indoor air quality is shaving years off people’s lives and how high efficiency air filters could offer a viable fix to the problem.
For weeks, the so-called Camp Fire in Butte County, California, the state’s most destructive and deadliest wildfire in recorded history, blanketed large parts of the Pacific Northwest in a smoky haze. Only this time the haze caused wildfire ambient air pollution levels to reach dangerously high levels, triggering fits of coughing, wheezing, and teary eyes among other symptoms. In fact, on November 16, 2018, California briefly had the worst air pollution in the world. Unsurprisingly, many in Northern California and surrounding areas had no choice but to seek refuge indoors under the protection of
Unfortunately, this scenario is becoming more and more common around the world. Air pollution from natural causes like wildfires and man-made activities such as transport, industry, and power generation is quickly growing into what the World Health Organization (WHO) calls a public health crisis. Research by the organization reveals that nine out of 10 people are exposed to polluted air and that seven million premature deaths can be directly attributed to air pollution.
“On a country level, India takes the lead as having the worst air pollution in the world, with at least 11 cities belonging to the top 20 in terms of dirtiest,” 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. “In the U.S., eight of the 10 cities with the worst air pollution are in California.”
Pollutants Affecting Outdoor and Indoor Air Quality
While different countries and cities struggle with varying levels of air pollution that affect the safety of outdoor and indoor air quality, the underlying causes of these issues are actually more common than you think.
Smog is perhaps the most common example of air pollution, and the factors that lead to its formation in the atmosphere can be observed in both the developing and developed world. Every day, the process of burning fossil fuels, whether in cars and trucks, power plants, or manufacturing facilities, releases a cocktail of byproducts that form smog in the air.
“The burning of fossil fuels produces nitrogen oxides, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter,” explains Seyfferat Camfil USA. “While some of these particles are large and settle out, the vast majority of byproducts stay suspended in the air, many of them reacting with each other to form smog.”
Smog, in turn, can trigger a host of breathing issues and heart problems and exacerbate existing health conditions. In fact, during last year’s wildfires in California, researchers found that emergency room visits for asthma, hypertension, and strokes saw a dramatic increase in areas affected by the smoke.
The problem is that these adverse health effects don’t just translate to hospital visits, they also add up to years of life lost. This effect was observed in India, where a team of researchers found that India’s notorious air pollution shaved off as many as 3.32 years from the average life expectancy of the 660 million people living in the country.
Using Data to Guide Filtration Systems
In response to what has been observed is a steady increase in air quality events in the United States, the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute launched an interactive database and tool called the Air Quality Life Index, a system that “measures the potential gain in life expectancy that communities could see if they reduced air pollution to comply with the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline or National standards.” The index is particularly useful for determining what kind of filtration systems people in a particular country should use, depending on the severity of their air pollution.
According to the WHO, 10 micrograms of fine particulate matter, that being classified as PM2.5, or particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in size, per cubic meter throughout the whole year is the ‘safe’ limit.
Obviously, the cities and countries struggling with extreme air pollution have the most to gain from using the Air Quality Life Index. India, for example, is expected to see an increase of 4.3 years in life expectancy if it can solve its air quality woes and likewise, China would see a rise of 2.9 years.
How Home Air Filtration Systems Save Money
If anything, the Air Quality Life Index clearly indicates that there is a direct relationship between air pollution, specifically particulate matter levels and health outcomes. So, it’s safe to assume that installing air filtration systems in your home could be the difference between being healthy and suffering from asthma, allergy attacks, and bronchitis among other ailments.
And while scientists now know that dirty air shaves years off the average person’s lifespan, what isn’t as clear is the financial benefits of cleaning up the air we breathe every day. If current levels of air pollution remain unaddressed, it’s estimated that the global population would lose a staggering 12.8 billion years of life or around 1.8 years per person.
Those are years that could have contributed to industry and growing the economy.
In contrast, smoking is known to reduce the global average life expectancy by 1.6 years—but we all know smoking is bad for our health, so it’s easier to avoid or drop this habit. Breathing air outside? Not so much.
Using Home Air Purifiers to Capture Particulate Matter
The WHO is particularly concerned about air pollution caused by particulate matter (PM), which comes from wildfires, vehicles, power plants, and agriculture. While technologies and techniques such as electrifying, dust mitigation, and air scrubbers or home air purifiers can capture and remove these pollutants, these systems don’t actually address their source.
And even with home air purifiers, only high-quality systems are capable of capturing fine particulate matter, or particulates no larger than 2.5 microns in diameter. These particles are small and light enough to stay suspended in the air for hours, making it easy for people to inhale them. When this happens, the particulates can end up in the deepest parts of the lungs, cross into the bloodstream, and reach the body’s vital organs, causing all kinds of health issues as a result.
Look for a Reliable Air Filter Manufacturer or Distributor
Obviously, air pollution is a matter not to be taken lightly. The same level of thought should also go into choosing an air filter system. If you’re serious about protecting your commercial office building or home from air pollution, it pays to look for a trusted air filter manufacturer or distributor near you. These companies will ensure that you get only high-quality products that are appropriate for your air quality needs and the size of the rooms that need filtration.
With more than 50 years of experience designing and manufacturing high-quality air filter systems for all kinds of applications, Camfil USA takes pride in its commitment to help homeowners and commercial building owners solve their air quality problems. Talk to our team to learn more about improving your home’s indoor air quality with our air filters. You may also browse through our catalog of high efficiency air filters to learn more about our clean air solutions.
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