Ad: Effective indoor air quality management essential in schools, homes and offices

Craig Lewis of SUEZ, a leading global provider of environmental solutions, explains the importance of monitoring, measuring and understanding indoor air pollution at school, work, and home.

Decades ago, air pollution was almost exclusively synonymous with vehicle exhaust fumes and manufacturing sites. In recent years, however, air quality issues have encroached upon our indoor environment as well.

Also referred to as the ‘sick building syndrome’ usually due to poor ventilation, toxic  pollutants, dust, or even airborne fabric fibres, this phenomenon can be present not only in homes but schools, offices, and other enclosed public spaces.

It is increasingly apparent that exposure to indoor air pollutants likely has an even greater significance on human health, for several reasons. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in a 2013 study, found that most of us spend more time indoors than outdoors. This was exacerbated during the Covid 19 pandemic with the implementation of lockdowns worldwide.

Buildings have also become more airtight to optimise energy efficiency, thereby increasing concentrations of pollutants, such as formaldehyde, and reducing air exchange from uncontrolled ingress of outdoor air.

Furthermore, we may also be exposed to a wider range of air pollutants, particularly volatile organic compounds (VOCs) within the indoor environment. A 2010 WHO study showed that concentrations of many pollutants are higher inside than outside. It doesn’t help that, in a Public Health England (PHE) March 2019 report, air pollution is now considered “the largest environmental risk to public health” with between 28,000 to 36,000 attributable deaths yearly.

PHE also noted that, in 2014 during a recorded poor air quality level, the proportion of daily calls to NHS hotline showed a significant increase in the reporting  of symptoms as asthma, wheezing, breathlessness, and others.

A recent study by Think Air, an air quality consulting firm based in South Wales, showed that air pollutants are “generally 2-5 times higher indoors”. Even opening a school or office window to avoid a stuffy work or study space is also letting in air pollutants, further exposing occupants to “high levels of outdoor pollutants”, such as carbon dioxide (CO2).

One of the best ways to combat the hazards of indoor air pollution is to have a holistic and integrated approach to air quality management. It needs to closely look at pollutants that have significant adverse impacts on public health, such as particulate matters (PM1, PM2.5, PM10), which are showing evidence of penetrating and lodging inside the lungs, as well as VOCs and CO2.

A shopping mall in France, for example, received a comprehensive end-to-end approach towards the improvement of its air quality through the SUEZ AirAdvanced® portfolio. Likewise, enclosed places such as Charles de Gaulle airport and the Alexandre Dumas metro station in Paris, France, have benefitted from such innovative, smart solutions.

The Air and Climate Division of SUEZ, a world leader in smart and sustainable resource management, has monitored and treated millions of cubic metres of air daily worldwide.

Committed to managing air pollution levels to as low as reasonably practicable, the AirAdvanced® suite is also helping to protect the health and well-being of residential apartment buildings in the UK.

The suite’s offerings of consultancy services and innovative solutions offers a four-point approach: diagnosis, remediation and mitigation, real-time monitoring, and big-data analysis and optimisation strategies.

The process typically involves the identification of poorly ventilated areas where pollutants accumulate and exceed recommended guidelines from public health bodies. Such areas are subjected to baseline air quality assessment, for example, within communal areas.

A 3D dispersion modelling simulation, referred to as a DIAG’Air Airflow Modelling Study, along with SUEZ ARIA Local™ software, a CFD-based (Computational Fluid Dynamics), is then created.

The model configuration can identify, account for and evaluate the impact of known pollutant emitting sources/areas and obstacles or building geometry that may disturb the airflow. It also determines the walls, openings and extraction systems influencing confinement, or air exchange, with the external environment. Lastly, the model shows thermal gradients and associated energy-efficiency and comfort-related impacts.

In such cases, indoor spaces can benefit from the integration of standalone air purification systems such as the MedicAir Pro, a technology that is currently used and endorsed in many health practitioner sectors.

The fact is, the technology is now available for good air quality management. It is just a matter of understanding the hazards poor air quality poses to the population, and setting out the best approach to managing it.


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