By: Rob Martin, Associate Category Manager, Kimberly-Clark Partnership Products |
Here at Healthier Indoor Air, we’re all about…well…indoor air. But did you know that the quality of outdoor air can affect the quality of indoor air? In some cases, pollutants in the air outdoors can make a big difference in how you treat and clean the air indoors.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air pollution is a problem for all of us. In many cities, the air we breathe is being polluted by a variety of activities, all of which add gases and particles to the air we breathe:
- Driving cars and trucks
- Burning coal, oil, and other fossil fuels
- Manufacturing chemicals
- Dry cleaning
- Filling your car with gas
- Degreasing and painting operations
The EPA estimates that millions of people live in areas where urban smog, very small particles, and toxic pollutants pose serious health concerns. People exposed to high enough levels of certain air pollutants may experience burning in their eyes, an irritated throat, or breathing difficulties. Long-term exposure to air pollution can cause cancer and long-term damage to the immune, neurological, reproductive and respiratory systems. In extreme cases, says the EPA, it can even cause death.
Outdoor Air Becomes Indoor Air
What happens to all that polluted outdoor air? Some of it makes its way inside, through open windows and doors and through air intake systems in commercial and institutional buildings. Once that air is inside, it’s the job of the building’s HVAC system to remove toxic particles via its air filtration system. Of particular concern are particles of 2.5 microns or smaller because they are the ones that can travel to the deepest part of the lungs where they can cause health problems.
Air Filtration Strategies
If you live or work in an area that has high levels of outdoor air pollutants, be sure to select an HVAC air filter that not only has the appropriate MERV to filter out the particles of concern, but also one that has high efficiencies capturing the smallest particles – those designated as E1 and E2.
Unfortunately, many filters have low E1 and E2 efficiencies. That’s why it’s important to consider filters made with mechano-electret media. They almost always outperform filters with mechanical-only media and are much more efficient at capturing submicron particles.
Remember that filters in the MERV 1-12 range aren’t measured for E1 efficiencies, and filters in the MERV 1-8 range aren’t measured for E2 efficiencies. That means you could have a MERV 11 filter with mechanical capture media that has poorer particle capture efficiencies than a MERV 8 filter with mechano-electret media. So look beyond MERV to make sure the filter you select is capturing those submicron particles.
Do You Have an Outdoor Air Quality Problem?
It’s been estimated that roughly three out of ten people in the U.S. live in an area with unhealthful short-term levels of particle pollution and one in six lives in an area with unhealthful year-round levels of particle pollution . Want to know more about the air quality where you live and work? The EPA offers forecasts and information about current ozone and particulate levels where you are.