The indoor air pollution problem that many European businesses just don’t know about
01 September 2015
The awareness regarding poor indoor air quality in European working environments – and its negative impact for example on the wellbeing, health and productivity of the workforce – is generally too low. Many business owners, as well as building owners and building managers, are still not fully aware of these issues, or of the clean air solutions they could and should put in place to combat them.
Poor outdoor air quality
In recent years, the problem with poor (and often harmful) outdoor air has constantly been reported on in the media. There have been alarming stories from countries like China and India, where air pollution from traffic and industrial emissions pose a real and tangible threat to people’s health – and productivity.
But poor outdoor air is not only a problem in far away countries. We have these problems in Europe too. In 2015, for example, the traffic in Paris was once again cut in half to curb high levels of smog. And London’s Oxford Street was recently named “the most polluted street in the world”.
European IAQ standard EN13779
The European standard for Indoor Air Quality is called EN13779. It specifies the required filter performance in a system to achieve good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) taking into consideration the outdoor air. The outdoor air is categorised in three levels, from ODA 1, where the air is pure except for temporary pollution such as pollen, up to ODA 3 with high concentrations of both gases and particles.
The particulate matter refers to the total amount of solid or liquid particles in the air. Most outdoor air guidelines still refer to PM10 (particle diameter up to 10 μm). However, for the purpose of health protection, there is growing acceptance that emphasis should be placed on particles far smaller than 10 μm. The gaseous pollutants refer to concentrations of CO2, CO, NO2, SO2 and VOCs.
The table below indicates typical concentration levels in outdoor air, together with a suggestion on how to categorise the quality.
A two-part clean air solution
How do we clean the outdoor and indoor air to achieve a healthy and productive indoor working environment? To be fully protected, a building often, ideally, needs two solutions, which complement each other:
- The first is of course the most obvious one: An efficient HVAC system with a clean air solution in the form of high quality air filters – including particle and also if needed molecular filtration. These air filters protect people, processes and equipment, by filtering the polluted outdoor air before it enters the building.
- The second solution is to install air purifiers/air cleaners, to complement the existing ventilation system – by taking care of both indoor and outdoor air pollutants. Camfil’s air purifiers/air cleaners offers a 99,95 per cent HEPA-filtration efficiency as well as molecular filtration capabilities.
3. If your building does not have a HVAC system using standalone air purifiers/air cleaners can help ensure air quality in your building is at its highest.
From 1,000,000,000 particles per m3 to 31,000
Outdoor air contains approximately 100,000,000 particles per m3. Camfil’s market leading F7 filters have a minimum purification efficiency of 56 per cent. Indoor air, which has passed through the ventilation system, but not through an air purifier/air cleaner, contains about 44,000,000 particles per m3. When the air has been filtered through one of Camfil’s standalone air purifiers, for offices and commercial premises, or one of our industrial air cleaners, about 31,000 particles per m3 remains.
Indoor generated particles
As briefly mentioned above, our air purifiers and air cleaners not only handle air pollutants from the outside. They also take care of pollution generated from inside the premises. So called indoor air pollutants. These are, for example, emissions from furniture, wall paint, cosmetics, air fresheners, cleansers, carpets, aerosol propellants, plasticisers, building material, pens and markers, waxes and polishes.
Clean air with health benefits
Indoor air, filtered through Camfil’s air purifiers and air cleaners, contains less bacteria, dust, viruses and harmful particles. People breathing the clean air, are much less likely to suffer from common ‘sick building’ symptoms, such as headaches, itchy eyes, asthma and respiratory problems. The benefits are happier, healthier and more productive employees, who have fewer sick days and more energy to get things done at work.
Saves money on heating
Camfil air purifiers and air cleaners save energy by helping the heating system. Instead of drawing in and heating new cold air from the outside, the clean air that has already been heated by the air purifier/air cleaner can be re-circulated in the room.
Less need for cleaning
When the indoor air is cleaned of dust and particles, there is less need for cleaning. For example, shelves, products, furniture and equipment no longer gather dust as easily. Machine maintenance can be performed with less frequency. And regular cleaning services can often be reduced by up to 50 per cent.
For a wide range of industries
Camfil air purifiers and air cleaners are designed specifically to improve air quality for example in offices, hospitals, warehouses and manufacturing facilities.
Indoor Air Quality testing and analysis
Getting the indoor air quality in the facility tested and analysed by an industry expert is key to understanding which harmful particles are present in the air. Camfil Ireland uses two main tests to understand the air quality:
1) Particle counting;
2) City Check.
Particle counting is a method to understand the basics of how clean (or polluted) the air in the facility is. We measure for different size particles (ranging from 0.3μm to >10 μm) to see the particle concentration in the air.
The City Check is a more in-depth analysis. Here we analyse what particles are in the air and how the air quality lives up to the European Indoor Air Quality standards. City Check includes testing for 39 potentially harmful molecules which are regularly found indoors:
– 30 VOCs, like benzene, tetrachloroethylene, xylenes, toluene etc;
– Nine aldehydes, like formaldehyde, acetaldehyde etc.
After analysing and understanding the indoor air quality in a building, it is important to improve it (where possible). Here we come back to the three steps mentioned earlier: First we ensure you use the optimum air filter configuration in your HVAC system, since this is the lower cost solution (where we also often suggest molecular filters to stop harmful molecules).
The next solution is to install air purifiers or air cleaners in your facility to compliment the HVAC system and the third solution is to create an air purifier or air cleaner solution which provides a satisfactory indoor air environment when the building has no HVAC system.
A real life particle count
Below is a real life particle count, performed at a Camfil customer site – a hospital – where we measured for particles between 0.3 μm and >10 μm. For the first five minutes, the particle counter measured the air without purification. Then the air purifier was turned on, and the graphs below outline how the concentration levels of each particle sized dropped.
For the hospital in question, the key particle sizes where between 0.3-0.5 μm, where potentially harmful 0.4 μm size particles like Aspergillus can be found. Please read the full case study here.
Video of the Camfil City M air purifier in action
Video about Camfil’s CITY M air purifier
Camfil is the world leader in the design, manufacture and supply of Clean Air Solutions. With one manufacturing facility in Ireland and 22 other worldwide locations, Camfil has the capacity, experience and expertise to deal with any air quality needs and problems. Contact Camfil – 01-8484977. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.camfil.ie