If a list were put together of areas in the world that desperately need the help of the air filtration industry to protect air quality inside homes and buildings, the continent of Africa would be on that list.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 2.2 million deaths in the Africa region can be attributed to environmental causes. Of that number, 600,000 annual deaths are linked to air pollution, long recognized as a silent and invisible killer in many African countries.
In fact, Africa’s air pollution problem causes more premature deaths than childhood malnutrition or contaminated water and is poised to balloon to the same levels seen in China and India, where the crisis now impacts the climate and public health.
“As global prosperity continues inching upwards, many major worldwide environmental issues such as the thinning ozone layer and deforestation are being addressed,” said Mark Davidson, Manager of Marketing and Technical Materials at Camfil USA. “But outdoor air pollution from particulates and VOCs generated from mobile and stationary sources continues to be a problem in both rural and urban areas.”
This problem is particularly true in fast-developing nations in Africa such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Egypt, and South Africa. Data from an Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) development center study reveals that:
- Between 1990 and 2013, the total annual deaths from outdoor air pollution rose to 250,000, or 36 percent.
- Over the same time, deaths from household air pollution (HAP), or pollution from residential energy use, increased by 18 percent, representing 250,000 fatalities.
What is Air Pollution and Where Does Pollution Come From?
Air pollution is caused by dangerous particulate matter and VOCs, released in large quantities into the air. These airborne pollutants are known to cause disease and death to humans and cost billions of dollars in damage to animals and food crops. But where do particulate matter and VOCs come from?
“Virtually any manufacturing or industrial activity creates both particulate and VOC pollution, releasing organic and inorganic substances into the air that may cause a variety of diseases. Some cancers and exacerbated symptoms of pre-existing respiratory diseases such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are most common” notes Davidson..
Examples of airborne pollutants include:
- Lead vapors
- Mercury vapors
- Nitrogen oxides (NOx)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Carbon monoxide (CO)
- Carbon dioxide (CO2)
Staying indoors doesn’t help because indoor air quality in a “sealed” room can still be affected by outdoor air pollution. Outdoor air can enter indoor spaces through cracks in the walls, ceilings, open doors and windows and unfortunately, through a system designed to protect the indoor inhabitants: the ventilation system.
Commercial Air Filter Manufacturers Need to Support Air Pollution Success Stories
Commercial air filter manufacturers can support the momentum built by a number of African nations in their fight against indoor air pollution. During the second UN Environment Assembly, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) released a report on air quality, discussing 10 measures to improve air quality according to six areas of concern:
- Indoor air quality
- Public transport
- Fuels and vehicle emissions
- Waste burning
- Air quality legislation and regulations
While the report shows that the majority of countries have yet to take concrete actions to improve air quality, it also brought attention to several success stories in Africa that can inspire a global change. These stories include:
- While billions of people around the world still depend on inefficient cookstoves and solid fuels for cooking, in Seychelles they succeeded in improving indoor air quality by implementing policies that encouraged the entire country to transition from solid fuels to liquefied petroleum gas.
- A mere quarter of the world’s countries have advanced fuels and vehicles standards, a regulatory policy that is proven to reduce particulate matter pollution levels, especially in urbanized areas. In 2015, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, and Rwanda transitioned to using only low sulfur fuels.
- Several African countries joined the rest of the world in implementing national air quality standards.
What Types of Air Filters are Required to Control Both Particulate and Pollution Caused by VOCs?
It’s important to understand that there are different types of air filters available, each one designed to remove specific types of pollutants.
For example, when it comes to capturing particulate pollution, filters that utilize mechanical principles are most common.
- A mechanical air filter is the style most of us are familiar with. These high efficiency filters remove airborne particles by trapping them in a filter media—usually some kind of fibrous and porous material. When attached to an HVAC unit, air that passes through the ductwork also passes through the fiber material, which traps particulate matter down to 1.0 micron in size. An extreme version of a mechanical filter is a HEPA filter which targets the smallest of particles. A HEPA filter can capture 99.97% of particles as small as 0.3 microns.
- The other style of air filter is known as a molecular filter. Commonly referred to as activated carbon filters, these filters use the process of adsorption (ADsorption not ABsorption) to capture the molecules in VOCs which are up to 10,000 times smaller than what a particulate filter can capture.
Choosing the Right Air Filter
Before choosing an air filter, it’s important to work with a trusted air filter manufacturer or their designee who can help you determine what contaminants in your local environment need to be controlled. Controlling both particulate and VOC pollution is possible, and a qualified professional can guide you through the process of selection.
To learn more about the importance of indoor air quality control, talk to Camfil USA. You can also explore our catalog of air filtration systems to learn more about our products.
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