Over the last few years, the pandemic has affected how we clean to stay safe. The increased use of disinfectants and cleaners has also increased the amount of airborne chemicals. Although facilities have improved their cleaning processes, how we clean buildings directly affects the air quality inside them.
Air purification is an emerging form of cleaning in the world of safety and indoor cleanliness. An air purification system can combat the chemicals and pollutants in the air to ensure cleaner air in your facility.
A study conducted by the Canada Green Building Council (CAGBC) reported that occupants living in “green buildings”, buildings that keep human health and environmental, economic, and social impact in mind, exhibited higher productivity. By breathing in air with lower concentrations of CO2 and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – pollutants – occupants experienced “fewer sick days and lower asthma rates.”
With the ability to choose an air purification solution for your space and as an emerging sustainable cleaning technology, air purification is a practical approach to keeping the environment healthier.
Indoor air pollutants and how they affect us
In a report by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollutants are two to five times higher indoors. Pollen, dust, pathogens, and VOCs are all pollutants commonly found indoors and can be attributed to negative health effects. Sources can include HVAC systems, cleaning supplies, building and furnishing materials, outdoor air pollution, people, and animals.
While pollen and dust may trigger allergic reactions and induce symptoms such as sneezing, dizziness, coughing and fever, inhaling mould and VOCs can result in more serious health ramifications. Through the process of “off-gassing” (the release of chemicals into the air), VOCs from paint, air fresheners, cleaning solutions, fabrics, carpets, and other consumer goods can permeate the air throughout a facility.
Breathing in the chemicals released by these products can result in both short-term and chronic effects. Short-term exposure to low levels of VOCs may lead to headaches, nausea, and dizziness, while prolonged exposure can be associated with serious disease and central nervous system damage. In spaces where air ventilation is inadequate, the risk of infection from viruses and pathogens also increases, especially in crowded areas.
Workplaces need clean air
Buildings with poor air quality can often experience a high rate of Sick Building Syndrome (SBS), a widely used term to describe adverse health effects linked to the time individuals spend in the building. Establishing methods to battle SBS within workplace settings can play a major factor in increasing a company’s efficiency.
A study in the Harvard Business Review reported that air purification and good ventilation “has been shown to reduce SBS symptoms, cut absenteeism, and even reduce infectious disease transmission” within the workplace. Statistics Canada also reports that improved air quality within workplaces can reduce the total number of sick days claimed each year by 19.4 per cent.
Air purification technology
The base technology in air purification systems is the cleaning of indoor air from air pollutants. Different types of systems change the way air is purified.
The most common purification system is the passive air purifier. Passive air purification machines pull indoor air into the system where any air pollutants detected are trapped in a filter and cleaner air is expelled back into the room.
The filtration processes in an air purifier varies depending on the type of material used in the filter. Each of the three most common scientifically engineered filters work to trap or inactivate air pollutants:
- High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter: This filter traps particulates like allergens, pollen, viruses, mould, and bacteria to the fibres of the filter and pushes out cleaner air.
- Activated carbon filter: Air is absorbed into the porous carbon where organic compounds found in the air react chemically with the activated carbon. This way, the pollutants stick to the filter and the air leaves the filter purified.
- Ultraviolet (UV) lights: Unlike HEPA and carbon filters, UV lights inactivate pollutants instead of trapping them. Then, cleaner air is pushed back into the room.
Tips for choosing an air purifier
Along with understanding the types of filtering available for air purification, there are four other factors to consider when choosing an air purifier fitting for your space:
- Filtering. Not all machines advertised as “air purifiers” have filters that trap pollutants and instead just move air around. Look for a system that includes layered filtering to ensure that air is getting cleaned.
- The size of your space and how many air changes are needed within an hour. Air purifiers are not a single machine fix for all spaces. A small room and a larger office space will require different purifiers with different square-foot capabilities. Ideally, your purifier’s square footage should slightly exceed the size of your space to ensure efficient air purification. The size of your space also determines the air changes per hour, the rate at which all the air in the room is cleaned and replaced within an hour.
- Noise levels. Since many purifiers use fans to pull in and push air out of the system, it’s important to choose a system whose noise level is appropriate for the space. Air purifiers often run at decibel levels equal to an upright vacuum. Be mindful that your purifier operates at a whisper quiet level, which is anywhere from 15db to 45db.
- Documentation. Check that your purifier includes documents specifying the system’s capabilities and technical aspects to ensure your indoor air is being purified effectively.
According to the EPA, ideal air purification systems for office buildings include multiple filters, an appropriate square foot capacity, whisper quiet noise levels, and detailed documentation, such as Surgically Clean Air’s systems. With such capabilities, not only will the air purifier combat the increase of pollutants put into the air, but it will also positively affect the people in the spaces and contribute to a greener cleaning approach. All told, air purification is a practical and sustainable solution to create cleaner air and a safer space.