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Are Air Filters the Solution to Urban Air Pollution?

By July 9, 2019 May 4th, 2020 No Comments
11–13 minutes to read

In October 2018, the World Health Organization (WHO) held its first global conference to discuss the links between air pollution and public health. The meeting of government officials, policymakers, and representatives from the healthcare and environmental sectors around the world sought to find a solution to prevent the estimated seven million deaths that occur each year due to air pollution exposure, leaving people scrambling to use clean air solutions such as air filters or air purifiers in their homes and in the workplace.

The conference comes after several studies have established a clear connection between constant exposure to poor ambient (i.e. outside) air quality and adverse health outcomes. WHO officials also expressed concern that air pollution has now turned into what it calls is a silent public health crisis, going so far as to dub air pollution as the “new tobacco.” 

But the risk of developing health problems caused by air pollution is especially high among children. In a statement, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that air pollution is currently poisoning millions of children around the world and ruining their lives. 

How Children Are Being Affected by Poor Outdoor and Indoor Air Quality

According to a 2018 report by the WHO, the vast majority of children around the world under the age of 15 live in areas with poor outdoor and indoor air quality, triggering a public health crisis that affects practically all of the world’s major cities—more so in countries in the developing world.

Children are more vulnerable to air pollution because they breathe more than adults per unit of body weight,” explains NAME, POSITION at Camfil USACamfil USA’s Charlie Seyffer, Manager of Marketing & Technical Materials for commercial air filters and 37-year ASHRAE member and active committee participant. “Children’s airways and lungs are still developing and they have detoxification rates and immature immune and defense systems.”

True enough, the same WHO report estimates that around 1.8 billion children under the age of 15, or 93 percent of the global population of this age group, are exposed to air quality levels that exceed the WHO’s air pollution guidelines. 

Furthermore, as much as 98 percent of children under the age of 5 that live in developing countries are exposed to higher levels of air pollution. By comparison, only around half of the children in the same age group from high-income countries are exposed to air pollution considered unsafe by the WHO. This disparity suggests that socioeconomic factors also come into play when identifying how people may be affected by air quality.

Children Need Air Purifiers

If anything, the WHO’s findings underscore just how important air purifiers are for children. But what makes them particularly susceptible to the adverse health effects of air pollution exposure?

“The physiology of children influences their reaction to air pollution,” explains Seyffer. “Because children’s lungs are still growing and developing, there is a greater risk that this process will be disturbed by environmental conditions.”

This also explains why children who live with people that smoke have a higher chance of developing chronic respiratory conditions like asthma and bronchitis.

In addition, the activity levels of children also make them more susceptible to air pollution.

  • Because children tend to be more active than adults, they end up breathing more air per volume of body weight.
  • Children and infants also usually inhale and exhale through their mouths, which bypasses the body’s natural filtration mechanisms in the nose.
  • Children also spend more time outdoors than adults, which increases their exposure to air pollution. This is especially true during spring and summer when smog levels can spike and allergy season begins.
  • Children’s narrow airways are more likely to be obstructed when inflamed by airborne pollutants.

Aside from lung problems, air pollution exposure can also affect the development of children’s nervous, endocrine, and immune systems, making them prone to diabetes and cancer later in life. 

Who Else Needs Air Purification Systems?

Of course, anyone can benefit from clean air that’s safe to breathe. With the WHO estimating that more than 90 percent of the world’s population lives in cities and areas where air pollution reaches unsafe levels, it won’t hurt if more people installed air purification systems in their households and in the workplace. 

As mentioned earlier, the air pollution crisis is significantly worse in developing parts of the world, particularly Southeast Asia and South Asia, where a large portion of the world’s global population lives. This situation is further compounded by the rampant burning of solid fuels like coal, wood, and biomass, and the weak regulation of power plants and motor vehicles in these countries, resulting in uncontrolled air pollution emissions. 

That’s not to say that things in the United States are much better. Cities like Los Angeles, New York, Bakersfield, Salt Lake, and Denver have long struggled with meeting the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) air quality standards, due largely to the high volume of vehicle traffic in their jurisdiction. 

And in recent years, the increase in the frequency of forest fires in the Pacific Northwest has also contributed to serious air pollution events, with the smoke generated by the fires often traveling hundreds of miles from their source and crossing state borders. And with climate change causing longer and hotter summers, forest fires are expected to become even more frequent in the near future. 

Types of Air Pollutants Captured by Common Air Filtration Systems

But what exactly is in air pollution that makes it dangerous to human health. The truth is that air pollution like smog isn’t just strong-smelling haze or smoke. It’s a complex mix of solid particles, liquid droplets, and chemical gases small and light enough to stay suspended in the atmosphere. The good news is that high-quality air filtration systems are designed to capture and remove these airborne pollutants from within indoor spaces.

Particulate matter (PM) is of special concern to scientists, as it has been concerned to be capable of entering the bloodstream. PM refers to particles ranging from 10 microns in diameter (i.e. coarse PM) to smaller than 2.5 microns in diameter (fine PM). The finer the particulate matter, the more likely it will end up in the deepest recesses of the lungs when inhaled, enter the circulatory system along with oxygen, and reach the body’s vital organs. This process can cause a host of health problems, ranging from autism spectrum disorder in the prenatal stage of child development, diabetes, and even an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease

Other types of air pollutants that can be just as dangerous to human health include nitrogen oxides, ground-level ozone, and sulfur dioxide, all of which are generated by fuel combustion in cars, power plants and other industrial facilities. These pollutants require molecular level air filtration to be removed from the environment. 

Look for a Reliable Commercial Air Filter Manufacturer

If you’re serious about reducing indoor air pollutants with air filters or air purification systems, be sure to talk to a reliable commercial air filter manufacturer or distributor first. The trained professionals can help you determine which air filtration systems are best suited for your quality needs. 

Get in touch with Camfil USA to talk about our air filter solutions. Our team will be happy to answer all of your questions about maintaining good indoor air quality in commercial buildings, offices, schools, hospitals, or any other industry.

For more information on Camfil and HVAC replacement filters, visit Camfil online at


Lynne Laake 

Camfil USA Air Filters 

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