We’ve all heard about the dangers of secondhand smoke, glyphosate, Teflon, aluminum nanoparticles, 5G and, of course, Covid-19. But why is it that the most urgent health concern that affects us 24/7 is rarely discussed? I’m talking about the invisible, inescapable, and possibly the most toxic danger present in our very homes and workplaces – the indoor air we breathe.
In our lifetime, perhaps nothing else has brought more attention to the dangers of airborne infectious particles than the health crisis that gripped the world beginning in 2020. While it is alarming to think about, maybe we should look at this devastating development as a serious wake-up call. It is time to realize that both indoor and outdoor air quality becomes more of a health concern every day as that is where dangerous viruses and other contaminants are often transmitted.
While scientists, health officials, and the public are focused on battling highly infectious airborne germs, there is also a wealth of scientific evidence that links indoor air pollution to other health disorders – such as allergies, chemical sensitivities, fatigue, asthma and respiratory conditions. But there is more -- indoor and outdoor pollution may also contribute to a growing number of insidious, debilitating health disorders – like autism, Ischemic heart disease, Alzheimer’s and even brain cancer.
The Time to Pay Attention to Air Quality Is NOW!
The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that worldwide, “4.2 million premature deaths occur each year because of exposure to ambient air pollution. Air pollution poses a major threat to health across the globe.”
Indoor air pollution is a contributing factor to some of the most life-threatening diseases -- lung cancer, stroke, heart, and pulmonary disease. Almost half of respiratory illnesses in children under age five are caused by particulate matter inhaled from household air pollution.( 1 )
Most of us spend more than 70 percent of our time indoors, not realizing that levels of many common contaminants are higher indoors than outdoors. Inside our homes and businesses, the lifegiving indoor air we breathe has become increasingly contaminated with new strains of airborne viruses, bacteria and toxic mold that can cause acute illness. Well known sources of indoor contaminants are tobacco smoke, chemical odors from cleaning agents, furniture, flooring, formaldehyde from construction material, mold, and other allergens.( 2 )
Significant levels of chemicals could be discharged into the air you are breathing every day without realizing it. For example, if you are working in an office where there are a lot of copy machines producing chemical odors, or other sources of materials that outgas such as carpets, paints or even furniture.
The result? If you are living or working in a contaminated indoor environment, your immune system is impaired and never gets a chance to recover. Its performance is decreased day by day. Ultimately, long term exposure to indoor air pollution can lead to debilitating chronic diseases.
Many articles have been written on both the short- and long-term effects of living and working in an unhealthy indoor air environment. Today, with the attention on highly infectious viruses and ultrafine particles, there is heightened concern regarding how to reduce our exposure to these potentially life-threatening contaminants.
Ultrafine Particles -- The Most Harmful to Our Health
There are many health conditions that are affected by small ultra-fine particles. When I speak of ultra-fine particles, I am talking about tiny particles that get deep down into the lung tissue or wiggle their way through to brain tissue. You cannot really see them; they are invisible to the naked eye.
Air research has focused on toxic ultrafine particles (UFPs) that are smaller and more harmful than the old standard, PM10 and PM2.5 sized particles. UFPs are less than 0.1 micron in size PM 0.1 and are the main constituent of airborne particulate matter. Sources of UFPs include smoke, laser printers, airplane exhausts, and other combustion processes.(3)
UFPs are believed to have more serious health impacts than larger particles. Because of their nanoparticle size, UFPs are easily able to enter the body’s circulation system and distribute to various organs, including the lungs, brain -- causing inflammation and affecting the cardiovascular and central nervous system, wreaking havoc on your health.(4,5,6)
New research has linked air pollution nanoparticles to brain cancer.
Higher exposures to UFPs produced by fuel burning, particularly in diesel vehicles, significantly increase one’s chances of developing brain cancer. Research has shown that not only can nanoparticles get into the brain, but they also carry carcinogenic chemicals with them.
A new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology found that a one-year increase in pollution exposure of 10,000 nanoparticles per cubic centimeter – the approximate difference between quiet and busy city streets – increased the risk of brain cancer by more than 10 percent.
In addition, “many studies have suggested that early life adversities may carry into later life and affect brain aging. If this is true, then maybe long-term exposure to air pollution that starts a downward spiral of neurodegenerative change in the brain could begin much earlier and rev up in later life.” (7)
Other Serious Health Concerns
Pulmonary Issues -- “Owing to their numerous quantity and ability to penetrate deep within the lung, UFPs are a major concern for respiratory exposure and health.” Ultrafine particles may cause pulmonary inflammation and may be retained longer in the lungs. Exposure to PM 0.1 induces cough and worsens asthma. These UFPs can predispose individuals to ischemic cardiovascular disease and hypertension.(8)
Dementia and Alzheimer’s -- UFPs from power plants and automobiles may greatly increase the chance of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease, according to University of Southern California(USC) -led research. Scientists and engineers found that older women who live in places with fine particulate matter exceeding the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard are 81 percent more at risk for global cognitive decline and 92 percent more likely to develop dementia, including Alzheimer’s.
“Microscopic particles generated by fossil fuels get into our body directly through the nose into the brain,” said Professor Caleb Finch at the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology. “Cells in the brain treat these particles as invaders and react with inflammatory responses, which over the course of time, appear to exacerbate and promote Alzheimer’s disease.” (9)
Using Air Filtration in Your Home – For Reducing Airborne Contaminants
The Bioburden in a room is the total amount of germs present in the air of the room. Simply put, fewer germs in your breathing space equal less inhalation of infectious particles and a lower probability of acquiring a respiratory infection. Effective air purifiers can reduce the bioburden of a room. But how do you know which ones to choose?
The classic HEPA filter is basically made of paper with miniscule holes that trap particles. But what exactly is this filter removing? Per regulation, these filters must remove a minimum of 99.97% of particles larger than 0.3 microns to qualify as HEPA.
A typical HEPA air filtering system has a motor that draws in air, pushes it through a pre-filter, carbon and HEPA filter then discharges the filtered air into the room. If the HEPA filter is not completely sealed in the cabinet, some of incoming air can bypass the filter. The unit that you are depending on may filter only 50 percent of the air that you are breathing.
Another common problem with some air filter units is they have undersized motors that cannot circulate enough air to thoroughly clean a room. You need a powerful motor that will move enough air to clean a room at least three to six air changes an hour (ACH). If the unit is undersized, it will not effectively clean all the air in your breathing space. You will have dead spots across the room from where the filter unit is placed and all the air in the room will not be cleaned.
When selecting a filter unit, you must have enough air flow or what they call CFM’s of the motor. That is cubic feet of air moving a minute, usually 250CFM or higher with at least 3 speeds to cover most large rooms.
For example, a 20X15 foot room with a 10 feet high ceiling equates to 3000 cubic feet of space to clean. So, you need an air filter that can move 9000 cubic feet of air an hour to clean a room three times. Minimally, 150 CFMs gives you 3 air changes per hour (ACH). That would be on low or medium speed for some air units. For a larger area, high speed can give you 200-250 CFMs or can clean the room air 4-5 times, which reduces the particles even more.
Any small air filter unit placed in a large room is simply not going to work. It cannot effectively clean the space and you will end up recirculating the contaminated air back into the room.
Mold spores are much larger than viruses and can be trapped and eliminated in most HEPA grade air filters. However, bacteria and viruses are much smaller and most microbes can pass through HEPA filters if they are not attached to aerosolized mucous.
If you are depending on a HEPA filter only, it may only remove 90% or less of germs.
Combining UVC Light with a HEPA filter is used in medical facility applications for killing airborne viruses and bacteria, but the UVC light needs to be very powerful and in direct contact with the incoming contaminated air. (10) If combined with a small HEPA filter it is helpful but should not be relied on in a home setting. Many of the UVC light lamps in small portable filters are often lower in intensity, resulting in a longer time to kill germs and not as effective. In addition, some lamps may produce ozone, contain mercury, a known harmful contaminant. UVC light can be installed in an air conditioning system to prevent mold growth on pre-filters, however, over a period of months the intensity of the light will degrade or simply go out, rendering it ineffective until it is replaced.
Hyper HEPA Filtration Technology
The IQAir HealthPro Series features Hyper HEPA filtration technology for airborne particle removal. The company claims their filter can trap 99.5% of harmful ultrafine pollution particles down to 0.003 microns in size.
The Hyper HEPA filter is designed to trap viruses, pet dander, dust mites, air pollution, and cigarette smoke. However, it must be on high speed to achieve enough CFMs to clean a larger room and it can be noisy. Also, it does not have UV or other germicidal technology to kill the microbes that are trapped.
What is needed to combat the most harmful airborne contaminants we face today is an air purification system that has better-than-HEPA efficiency, removes dangerous ultrafine particles (UFPs) and kills any germs that are trapped in the filter.
The Healthway Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS) reduces ultrafine particles, captures and kills 99.99% of bacteria, mold, fungi, viruses, and other micro-organisms, down to a size of 0.007 microns.
This new technology has a 7-stage prefilter, that removes larger particles and reduces chemicals and odors. Then the air passes into the DFS zone that combines a high energy grid with a filter to provide particle capture down to nanometer size particles.
The DFS zone has an upper filter for particle reduction that is contained inside two electrostatic plates. This aggregates the smaller ultrafine particles into larger particles that are more easily trapped in the filter. In addition, the electrostatic field inactivates (kills) bacteria and viruses at a high percentage on the first pass through the DSF zone. Mold is trapped in the filter and killed over a period of hours.
The DFS system is superior to Ultraviolet/ HEPA because all the air stream is forced to pass into the DFS zone with a higher germicidal dosage that is constant and does not degrade. UV lamps degrade over a year of use and gradually become less effective in germ killing.
The Healthway unit is listed as a Class 2 Medical Device by the FDA, allowing it to be used in hospitals.
Selecting and Maintaining an Air Filtration System
Choose an air cleaner that is adequate for the room area in which you will use it. Remember that the higher the CFMs, the more particles your system can filter and the larger area it can serve. Higher fan speeds and longer run times can positively impact and increase the amount of air filtered.
Portable air filters that intentionally produce ozone should be avoided. Ozone is a known lung irritant.
The following are the types of effective air purification technology that we recommend:
- GOOD – Large HEPA Filter – Austin Air
- BETTER - Ultra Filtration - IQAir
- BEST - Healthway Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS)
Clean filters often – at least once a month! If you have pets, you will want to be sure to change your filters more often than non-pet owners would. A dirty air filter does you no good and jeopardizes everything you are doing to improve your health.
Call The Expert
There may be no better investment in your health or that of your family than the right air filtration system for your home. Water and air -- the basic, essential necessities for maintaining human life on Earth -- are widely accepted as unlimited resources. Sadly, these vital resources we take for granted have become carriers of toxic chemicals and disease-causing pollutants.
Your home should be your healthy sanctuary. If you are confused as to which system is best for your home or workplace, do not worry. Air (and water) filtration systems have been Dr. Speiser’ s area of expertise for over 30 years.
Contact Dr. Speiser for a solution to these problems. He will be happy to recommend a solution to any of your indoor air (or water) concerns.
Dr. Roy M. Speiser, V.P., CWR, Environmental
Phone: 800-444-3563 Outside U.S. 772-919-8702
1. World Health Organization. 2021. https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#t...
2. American Lung Association. March 14, 2020. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air...
3. Donaldson K., Stone V., et al. 2001. “Ultrafine Particles.” Occupational & Environmental Medicine 58:211-216.
5. Schraufnagel, Dean E. 2020. “The Health Effects of Ultrafine Particles.” Experimental and Molecular Medicine 52:311-317.
6. Ostro B., Hu J., Goldberg D., et al. June 1, 2015. “Associations of Mortality with Long Term Exposures to Fine and Ultrafine Particles, Species and Sources: Results from the California Teachers Cohort Study.” Environmental Health Perspectives Vol. 123, No. 6.
7. Weichenthal S., Olanyan T., et al. March 31, 2020. “Within-city Spatial Variations in Ambient Ultrafine Particle Concentration and Incident Brain Tumors in Adults.” Epidemiology (2):177-18.
8. Schraufnagel D.E. 2020. “The Health Effects of Ultrafine Particles.” Experimental and Molecular Medicine 52,311-317.
9. The air pollution study, the Women’s Health Initiative and WHIMS are collectively supported by the National Institute on Aging of the National Institutes of Health; the Southern California Environmental Health Sciences Center funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences; the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals Inc.; St. Davids, PA, and the Wake Forest School of Medicine; and the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund.
10. Buonanno M., Welch D., Shuryak I., Brenner D.J. 2020. “Far-UVC light (222nm) efficiently and safely inactivates airborne human coronaviruses.” Scientific Reports 10, 10285.