The invisible, inescapable air we breathe
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’s 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.
This is a topic that I am deeply concerned about and recently consulted my long-time friend and colleague, Dr. Roy Speiser, VP of CWR Environmental, who has been my go-to expert for all things water and air quality for almost 30 years. I worked with him as a contributor on this article and am grateful he’s allowing me to share it with you here on my blog:
The Time to Pay Attention to Air Quality Is NOW!
Indoor air pollution is a contributing factor to some of the most life-threatening diseases — lung cancer, stroke, heart, and pulmonary disease. And close to 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.
Recent 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, 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 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 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 University 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 one to choose?
The classic HEPA filter is basically made of paper with miniscule holes that trap particles. 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.
If you are depending on a HEPA filter (even if it has a carbon filter), it is not as effective in removing the infectious airborne contaminants. There is a new purification technology that removes the dangerous ultrafine particles and kills any germs that are either trapped or pass into the filter unit.
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 actually filter only 50 percent of the contaminants in the air you’re breathing!
Another common problem with some air filter units is that they have undersized motors that cannot circulate enough air to thoroughly clean a room. A powerful motor is needed that can move enough air to clean a room at least three to six air changes an hour. If the unit is undersized, it will not effectively clean all the air in your breathing space. You will have dead spots from one side of the room to the other 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 CFMs of the motor. That’s 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 filtration system 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 – the very last thing you want!
Filtration Equipment Solutions – When HEPA Is Not Enough
What is needed to combat the most harmful airborne contaminants we face today is an air purification system that has better-than-HEPA efficiency combined with electrostatic function that can trap UFPs and kill viruses, bacteria, and mold inside the unit.
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.
My Recommendations for Effective Air Cleaners
The Healthway Disinfecting Filtration System (DFS) reduces ultrafine particles and captures 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, after which 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 has a larger upper filter 95% particle reduction that is inside two electrostatic plates. This aggregates the smaller ultrafine particles into much 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 area. Mold are trapped in the filter and killed over a period of hours.
The DFS system is superior to Ultraviolet because all the air stream is forced to pass into the DFS area, whereas most UV-HEPA units have by-pass, not enough germicidal dosage, and the UV lamps (as previously mentioned) degrade over a year and 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.
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.
Don’t put it off any longer — contact CWR for a solution to these problems and mention code ALG for a special discount. Your home should be your sanctuary.
1. World Health Organization. 2021. https://www.who.int/health-topics/air-pollution#tab=tab_1.
2. American Lung Association. March 14, 2020. https://www.lung.org/clean-air/at-home/indoor-air-pollutants.
3. Donaldson K., Stone V., et al. 2001. “Ultrafine Particles.” Occupational & Environmental Medicine 58:211-216.
4. Osunsanya T., et al. 2001. “Acute Respiratory Effects of Particles: Mass or Number?” Occupational & Environmental Medicine 58 (3):459. doi:10.1136/oem.58.3.154. PMC 1740106. PMID 11171927.
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. Guxens M., Lubczyńska M.J., Muetzel R., Dalmau-Bueno A., Jaddoe V.W., Hoek G., Van der Lugt A., Verhulst F.C., White T., Brunekreef B., Tiemeier H., El Marroun H. 2018. “Air pollution exposure during fetal life, brain morphology, and cognitive function in school-age children.” Biological Psychiatry; https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.01.016.
11. Environmental Protection Agency. “Science and Technical Resources related to Indoor Air and Coronavirus (COVID-19).” https://www.epa.gov/coronavirus/science-and-technical-resources-related-indoor-air-and-coronavirus-covid-19.
12. 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.
Dr. Roy M. Speiser holds degrees in biology, biochemistry, bacteriology, and biomechanical engineering. He writes and lectures extensively on issues of water and air quality, environmental impact studies and related health issues. As the Vice President and Director of Research for CWR Environmental Products, Dr. Speiser is tasked with continuously reviewing the scientific literature for evolving trends that can predict, identify, and combat emerging forms of unregulated contaminants, toxic chemicals, and disease-causing microorganisms.
I’ve used this Healthway air filter for over 7 yrs. and have been very happy with the air quality. I really recommend this unit. It’s quiet and doesn’t take up much space.
Great information about the tiny particles. I’m an older woman and so am paying attention to what you are saying. I will call this company and explore my options. Thank you
I’m very impressed by this air filter. I’ve used a small table to unit but it only helps the room it’s in. I need a bigger unit for my 4 room apartment.
I’m a big fan of fresh air and like to leave my window open a little, even in the winter. It smells good but I’m sure it has to be polluted even though I live in the suburbs of Houston.