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How Electric Buses Can Help High Efficiency Air Filters Supply Clean Air to Airports

By October 5, 2019 May 4th, 2020 No Comments
12–14 minutes to read

Learn how a Houston airport is using electric buses to help high efficiency air filters improve indoor air quality for airports.

In an effort to protect the health and safety of airline passengers and airport workers, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently awarded more than $1 million in funding to the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas for the purchase of electric shuttle buses. Administered under the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA), the funding will help the airport’s air filtrations systems improve air quality inside the airport by reducing emissions from diesel buses.

According to the EPA, DERA’s clean-diesel grants are designed to help cities improve ambient air quality and meet regulatory standards. Aside from improving indoor air quality inside the airport, the procurement of greener electric buses will also improve the quality of life for communities situated near the airport, which are exposed to high levels of air pollution from planes and airport vehicles.

Likewise, Carlos Ortiz, Houston Airport System environmental manager, said that the Houston Airport System prioritizes the improvement of air quality through alternative technologies, which is exactly what the $1,032,104 grant allows them to do. The money will be used to purchase four electric-power shuttle buses to replace the airport’s aging and pollution-spewing diesel buses, a move that is expected to cut tons of pollution emissions each year.

Why Airports Need Air Filtration Systems with High Efficiency Filters. 

Airports and nearing communities are constantly surrounded by jet fumes, dust kicked into the air by thousands of moving people, biological contaminants from people, particles from construction activities, and chemical fumes from cleaning activities. It’s no surprise then why air filters performing at a high capture efficiency ratio are so important in airport terminals, which are often recognized for being hotbeds of pollutants and germs.

“Fortunately, most airports, especially those in major cities of the world, have installed powerful air filtration systems to address the problem of poor indoor air quality inside terminals,” explains Greg Herman, National Accounts Manager at Camfil USA. “Air filter systems are designed to capture and remove two common types of airborne pollutants inside airports: particulate matter and VOCs.”

Particulate matter (PM) comes from exhaust from planes, trucks, buses, and moving equipment like tugs and tractors. These are particles small and light enough to be suspended in the air and inhaled by people.

The human body also generates its own particulate matter by shedding dead skin at a rate of 0.001 – 0.003 ounces of skin flakes every hour, which only increases with a rise in activity level like walking or running. It’s not surprising then why many people report feeling stuffy or have allergic reactions after spending a few hours inside an airport.

How Molecular Air Filtration Systems Capture VOCs

On the other hand, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are the gaseous pollutants, composed of various molecules, released by construction materials, paints, varnishes, and common cleaning products and disinfectants. All of these release varying concentrations of VOCs. One solution to this potential health hazard is molecular air filters installed in existing HVAC systems or stand-alone air purification units.  Molecular filters are produced using materials with extremely high surface areas. They capture molecules through a technique referred to as adsorption. These molecules are up to 10,000 times smaller than particles typically found in the airstream. 

“The new office or new car smell that people love is actually caused by fabric, plastic, and carpet off gassing VOCs,” said Greg Herman. “At low levels, many VOCs are often relatively harmless, but high concentrations can be dangerous.”

Research on the effects of VOCs on the human body is showing worrying results. One study found that exposure to VOCs has led to an increased risk of cancer and non-cancer health effects. Similarly, another study found that the flame-retardant chemicals commonly used in furniture and other household items resulted in a “higher risk of thyroid disease in women who have higher concentrations of this chemical in their blood, and an even greater risk for women who are postmenopausal.”

And these problems only scratch the surface of the potential health effects of VOCs, as they only looked at a few specific classes of VOCs. There are other VOC types, such as those used in chemical products that remove stains, which have been suspected to increase the risk of cancers and even blood pressure problems. 

Why Buildings and Homes Near Airports Need High Quality and Highly Efficient Air Filters 

DERA is especially important for communities near airports, which face a greater need of air filters designed to capture both small particulate matter and VOCs. According to one study, heavy airplane traffic may have a more lasting effect on air quality of an area wider than previously thought. Moreover, the amount of air pollution in and around airports may be equivalent to the air pollution produced by car traffic plying through hundreds of miles of freeways.

In other words, the study’s authors suggest that the impact airports have on ambient air quality may have been seriously underestimated. And for urban dwellers living near airports, a substantial portion of their exposure to outdoor particulate matter can be attributed to airports instead of roadway traffic. 

EPA’s Efforts Go Beyond Industrial Air Filters

The value that higher quality indoor air delivers for airport passengers and workers, government interventions such as the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) plays a vital role in responding to the actual source of the pollution, rather than reacting to its effects.

DERA funding helps improve ambient air quality through grant money awarded to municipalities, schools, and other local government units, allowing them to move away from inefficient and dirty diesel fleets. These grants are prioritized for cities and communities that suffer from poor air quality, who can either use the money to retrofit diesel trucks with new emissions-reducing technology or replace aging vehicles with cleaner models.

Thanks to the help of EPA regulations, today’s generation of diesel-powered trucks and cars have never been cleaner. But because of how cheap and robust diesel engines tend to be, those manufactured decades ago are often still in use. DERA comes in by providing the funding to replace these vehicles at no cost to local government groups.

Better Safe than Sorry with High Efficiency Particulate and Molecular Air Filters.  

Remember, airplane air pollution contains a host of pollutants that can be controlled by using air filters with a high efficiency on both particulate and molecular matter. These include:

  • Black carbon (also known as soot)
  • Smoke 
  • Sulfur dioxide
  • Nitrogen dioxide
  • Volatile organic compounds

When inhaled, these ultrafine particles and gaseous pollutants can penetrate the deepest recesses of the lungs, where they can enter the bloodstream. When that happens, these foreign bodies can reach the body’s vital organs, causing lung problems, heart disease, thyroid issues, cancers, and even obesity.

If your home or place of work is located near an airport, or a major expressway for that matter, it’s a good idea to contact a filtration company with the knowledge and experience necessary to install high efficiency particulate or molecular filters to keep yourself and the other occupants safe from air pollution. 

For more than 50 years, Camfil USA has been a leading provider of state-of-the-art air filtration systems designed to protect homes and buildings from polluted air. To learn about the importance of protecting indoor air quality from outdoor air pollution, talk to Camfil USA. As one of the world’s top industrial air filter manufacturers, we have a wide range of industrial HEPA air filters or HEPA air purifiers for you to explore.

Get in touch with our branch locations team to learn how we can help solve your air quality problems.  


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Lynne Laake – Camfil USA Air Filters 

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