The easiest and most effective way to restore your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) to healthy levels is to use of an air cleaner or purifier. New technology developments, using hydroxyls, are proving to be the secret weapon in the fight against unpleasant odours and infection from bacteria and viruses.
How hydroxyls clean the air
Outdoor air quality varies greatly depending on everything from wind and wind direction, even in urban areas, to traffic pollutants and particulates, and of course, viruses or bacteria that travel in the air, in turn, cause a deterioration in indoor air quality levels.
The earths natural air and surface cleaning processes use hydroxyls to remove pollutants from the atmosphere.
This technology has now been harnessed and hydroxyl generation is now becoming the ‘go-to’ solution in facilities across the world.
Applications range from long term care facilities to hotels, fire and flood recovery support requested by insurance companies, property management, educational and sports facilities, and in industrial, office, and home settings generally.
The Problem with Ventilation Alone
Air cleaning reduces the levels of particles in the indoor air that comes from outdoors. The most effective ways to improve your indoor air are to reduce, or remove, the sources of pollutants through filtration and to ventilate the building with cleaned outdoor air. Unfortunately this solution becomes less effective as pollution increases and additional risk factors such as bacterial and viral contamination increase.
A direct ventilation system through open windows or direct air intakes, delivers fresh air directly to the indoor spaces. These systems use little or limited filtration to improve the quality of inhaled air within the building. Unfortunately, this is not always the most energy-efficient way to address the pollution and contamination problem, especially in winter when the system is taking in cold air all the time.
While the best way to prevent indoor contaminants is to eliminate them through proper air filtration, problems with a build-up of indoor contaminants or a bacterial and viral loads do arise over time with sporadic or poor ventilation. The obvious concern is having dirty, humid air re-circulating in your home, school or office, a problem exacerbated in more modern ‘superwarm’ and energy efficient buildings.
The Role of Humidity
Lowering humidity is good to a point, but overly dry air can create or exacerbate other air quality and comfort issues unnecessarily. As far as air comfort is concerned, this is a delicate balance because, as humidity increases, particles become heavier and drop to the floor for easy cleaning. However, as the air becomes more humid it may become uncomfortable and vulnerable to the propagation of bacteria … and comfort is subjective!
Viruses are least viable in buildings with humidity between 40 and 60%Dr. William Bahnfleth
The additional issue with humidity is that poorly managed, the air gives rise to mould, mildew and their attendant healthy hazards.
Small particles, charged by naturally occurring ionizers, rather than being collected at the filters, remain suspended in the air to exacerbate, for example, asthma symptoms, or spread bacteria virus among the occupants.
For enclosed, air-controlled spaces, such as offices and school buildings, small ions or charged particles, often lasting only milliseconds before losing their charge, are extremely active in keeping particles, bacteria and viruses in suspension for longer. Small particles of dust, bacteria or virus in the air can pass through your nose or mouth to the lungs. For someone who does not tend to suffer too much from respiratory issues, it would fortunately, be hard to notice a difference.
The ions attach to particles, where they combine, become larger, and are more easily filtered from the air.
The energy-efficient way to reduce indoor air pollution and reduce the heating load on the building, is to reduce the intake of cold air through the ventilation system and reduce the external air changes in the building. Within the building we can increase the quantity of positively and negatively charged oxygen ions to increase the natural air cleaners, such as hydroxyls, in the air and improve the overall air quality in the occupied spaces.
Risk factors and additional air cleaners
The risk factors of air conditioning spreading spreading COVID-19 and similar viruses is still largely undocumented. However, it seems anecdotally, to be less about the air conditioning system itself, than the air quality we create in the indoor spaces that create the conditions that propagate the virus among the occupants.
The amount of pollutant removal at the air intakes depends on the air flow rate and on the fraction of pollutants removed as the air flows through the filtration media used.
Some air-conditioning units may have an ‘auto’ protect mode that will alter the fan speed if the device detects a higher concentration of particles but this is less common in older systems. Most air cleaners simply use fans to move air through an air cleaning media at a constant speed. These media largely remove pollutants and combat the issue of micro-dust and mites for example, but may have little effect on bacteria and viruses.
Improving Indoor Air Quality – Air Purifiers
Once indoors some facilities may limited additional air filtration and ionizer units using an electrically charged wire, which sends charged molecules into the air in your home or office but with limited effect on microbial contamination.
The most important thing to do when choosing your air purification system is to know the exact size you need, the size of the room, office or occupied space where you are looking to protect the occupants.
There are so many products on the market today to clean and sanitize air and surfaces it can be confusing.
From the point of view of sanitising the area and sometimes surfaces, the two main processes you see are Ozone Generators and Hydroxyl Generators. To understand these two products you need to understand the science.
One option we have is Ozone, 90% of which exists in the stratosphere about 6-10 miles above the surface of the earth. The majority of ozone resides naturally at these levels to absorb most of the biologically damaging ultraviolet sunlight. So, little ozone resides near the earth’s surface, in the troposphere, where we live. Here we see a concentration of about 10 parts per billion because it is so volatile, and even dangerous in higher concentrations, to living organisms.
If it existed in a rate as little as 70 parts per billion, living organisms would be harmfully effected. If you think of looking for about 70 yellow marbles in a sea of 1 billion red marbles would give you an idea of the low concentrations at which ozone can be a problem.
Health warnings – ozone generators for indoor use
Ozone exists to break down harmful UV light, stays high in the upper atmosphere and is found only in extremely low concentrations in our daily life. Hydroxyls, on the other hand, exist to cleanse the earth of pollutants and exist at concentrations near 50% in our daily life. So what does all this mean? Science magazine states: ”Hydroxyl radicals are often called the “detergent” in the atmosphere because they control the atmosphere’s capacity to cleanse itself of pollutants.”
Ozone Generators work and are promoted for use in various industrial applications, such as fire damage recover, BUT, are extremely harmful if not managed appropriately. Rooms being treated with Ozone Generators need to be sealed off, HVAC (air conditioning) systems need to be shut down, and protected, so the Ozone doesn’t start spreading through the building. Enclosed areas cannot be occupied during cleaning.
In the US, the EPA had to come out with warnings on Ozone Generators due to claims made by companies stating it was safe, or indicating it was safe, for use in occupied spaces. The EPA states the harm in being exposed to even low levels of ozone: “Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation.”
Interesting trivia about the EPA: Just because products are registered with the EPA does NOT mean the EPA endorses the product, or even claims it to be safe! The EPA registers products to keep track of who is making them, and how they are being marketed in order to keep consumers safe and properly informed.
Applications of Hydroxyls
Hydroxyl Generators recreate the earth’s natural process to cleanse the air and surfaces. Hydroxyls are generated by water droplets reacting with UV light. Spaces can remain occupied when Hydroxyl Generators are operating so there is no need to vacate the areas being treated. This allows businesses to continue to run as normal with zero down time. The EPA has no warnings at this time about Hydroxyl Generators.
You should always know the products and chemicals that you are using in the workplace, and the possible pitfalls of using them.
Hydroxyl Generators can be and are used them in our homes for a variety of issues, illness prevention and odours being are top of the list. They can even be used to save the contents of a home fire and restore the items so there was no smell of smoke. Some recovery services promote ozone as a medium, but as mentioned, this is not always the safest route. Hydroxyls also serve in dealing with mould issues, especially after flooding events. These applications alone can save businesses, and homes, millions of in damage recovery costs. And these are just a couple of the ’emergency’ applications.
And in conclusion …
A good reference article would be Ozone vs Hydroxyls – What’s the Real Deal?
Then the next is to see what the most efficient, and safest media are to best clean the air and keep the building occupants safe – and give the public the confidence to return to the business, the restaurant or the office after lockdown.
Hydroxyl based air purifiers bring Nature’s own cleaning processes to bear and deliver cleaner, safer indoor air quality, naturally.
The application of hydroxyl based air cleaners are endless. Facilities applications can locker rooms, fitness facilities, day cares, hospitals, clinics, veterinaries, prisons, long term care facilities, sports arenas, nurse’s offices, property management and hotels, and many more.
In this post-pandemic world, the power of hydroxyls in improving indoor air quality has really come to the fore given their proven ability to kill bacteria, viruses, eradicate mould, remove odours and VOCs, and more.
We will have more on this topic going forward and in the meantime if you have any comments or queries, please do not hesitate to contact us directly on our contact page.