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The smaller, the more dangerous. How nanoparticles impact air pollution?

2851 gallons is the average amount of air a human body consumes during the day. Most of the air we breathe in contains hazardous pollutants, so-called nanoparticles with the size no human eye can see.


In case this same human resides in his own downtown apartment, 5 to 7 ounces of the air he breathes is taken by toxins:

  • carbon monoxide

  • formaldehyde

  • benzopyrene

  • phenol, etc.

Where do these toxins come from?

The most common domestic toxins are released by household plastics, furniture, detergents, etc., and get into your body with the general airflow. Medical Science determines Inadequate response of the body to these impurities as allergic manifestations, which as of today are observed with the 25% or people. Allergies can also be caused by

  1. plant pollen

  2. all types of dust

  3. chemicals

  4. mold

  5. microorganisms.

If toxins linger in a human body for lasting periods of time, they may eventually cause cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and the rate of other body aging symptoms.

The absolute majority of people see a way out of toxins in medicine - for life.

Do humans have an alternative though? This question was asked by scientists who have invented an air purification machine many years ago.

All air pollutant particles can be classified by size. According to the European Environmental Agency (EEA), nanoscale-sized particles are the most dangerous for humans.

These include:

  • molecular organic compounds entering the blood directly (4–20 nm)

  • macromolecules - key players in acute allergy protein (20–40 nm)

  • solid and liquid aerosol nanoparticles (20–100 nm)

  • viruses (20-300 nm), bacteria (starting at 100 nm).

All these particles, in theory, must either be caught or mineralized by oxidation. We can clearly see fr om the figures that traditional methods do not eliminate nanoscale particles, the harmfully critical scale of particles per se. In practice, we are dealing with the contrary situation. In this case, due to desorption, the filtered dust becomes a source of molecular air pollution; it becomes an environment itself, wh ere pathogenic microflora tends to spread.


Traditional air purification methods

Carbon filters

These filters are installed in the filter boxes of household and industrial ventilation systems. They serve to fully remove odors, toxic gases, chemical vapors, and gaseous contaminants from the airflow. They provide the most of hygienic standards regarding air cleaning.

Fundamentally though, they cannot clean the air of volatile compounds completely. Particles with a molecular weight less than 40 AU can escape carbon filters. Therefore dangerous substances like formaldehyde, methane, sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide will most likely remain in the air you breathe. As toxins and dust accumulate, the filter itself can become a source of pollution. In urban conditions, it is recommended to replace air filters every 4-6 months.

Electrostatic filters

The effectiveness of these filters largely depends on the voltage of ionization and the geometry of the precipitating electrodes. At voltages above 7 kV, electrostatic filters begin to generate significant quantities of ozone, a toxic compound with very low MAC values ​​(0.02 mg / m). Ozone itself is not so easy to eliminate. In this regard, manufacturers produce filters with low ionization voltages, and therefore, with limited efficiency of trapping aerosol particles. There is also a need in the cleansing of settling electrodes in electrostatic filters. Sometimes as often as daily.

HEPA filters

HEPA filters are able to capture particles sized at 300 nm. They still do not solve the problem of nano air purification. Nanoparticles are considered to be the biggest hazard that floats around in the air we breathe daily. Filtered microflora concentrates on the filters themselves, they quickly become clogged and, to the delight of manufacturers, have to be replaced frequently.


Twenty years ago, when diesel-powered passenger cars began to gain popularity, toxicology scientists became seriously interested in how fine soot particles contained in exhaust gases affect the environment. Soon, the researchers came to the conclusion that these particles are extremely dangerous to health, and the smaller, the more dangerous. The revealed pattern gives us the reason to believe that there is even more harm from nanoparticles. Therefore, a number of research teams today are trying to assess all the risks and dangers associated with nanoparticles.

How nanoparticles harm the human body?

The most common opinion in the scientific community is that nanoparticles are small enough to penetrate cell membranes but too large to disrupt the flow of normal cellular processes.

Along with that their extremely small size makes it difficult to remove nanoparticles from the environment using traditional filtration methods. There is no doubt nowadays that some nano-objects can have a toxic effect on the cells of various human body tissues.

For example, inhalation of polystyrene nanoparticles causes inflammation of the lung tissue and provokes blood vessel thrombosis. There is evidence that carbon nanoparticles can cause cardiac disorders and suppress the activity of the immune system.

In living organisms, nanoparticles “travel” along completely different routes than larger particles of the same substance. For example, they can pass directly into the brain from the circulatory system. Normally, large particles cannot enter the brain due to the blood-brain barrier - a complex multi-stage protection system that limits the access of chemicals to neurons and glial cells inside the brain. This is equally true for the placental barrier.

The penetration of nanoparticles into the biosphere is fraught with many consequences. They are not yet possible to predict fully due to lack of information and research. Evolution has not yet created protection mechanisms against substances and particles this small.

Humanity did not have the precedent of dealing with them. Nowadays they are produced on an industrial scale.

How is nanoparticle toxicity tested?

In order to test inhalation toxicity, it is necessary to control the concentration, size and size distribution of nanoscale particles in an inhalation chamber. Traditional methods used in other areas are not enough to test nanoparticles since such characteristic parameters as the surface area of a particle or amount of particles is the decisive factor in determining toxicity.

Air containing up to 6 thousand aerosol particles in 1 in3 is considered clean. At an altitude of about 6 thousand meters above sea level, there are only 20 nanoparticles in 1 in3 of air. In large cities though with an altitude of about 100 m from the ground, the approximate number of nanoparticles is estimated at 45 thousand per one square inch. For urban areas, about half of the ultra-fine particles are organic compounds. The remaining mass is represented by:

  • rare metal oxides

  • elemental carbon

  • sulfates

  • nitrates

  • chlorides

  • ammonium.


Where nanoparticles come from?

The reaction taking place in Earth’s troposphere with nanoparticles significantly affects their concentration in the air. We’re talking major gaseous pollutants such as

  • nitric acid

  • sulfur dioxide

  • titanium dioxide.

These reactions often change the composition of particles, which affects the formation of clouds, the scattering, and absorption of light, the effects on human health and the environment. Epidemiological studies have shown that the deterioration of the pulmonary functions of humans and animals are closely connected with the number of ultrafine nanoparticles.

A smart way to go about the situation is to find a machine that is able to filter out the nanoparticles from your airflow, whenever you spend the most time during the day.

When choosing an air purifier, it is important to determine:

1. Air purifier cleaning quality - how powerful should the machine be? What is the air quality problem that you are trying to solve? One thing is to clean cigarette smoke in an office building; cleaning off the air of allergens for people with allergies or asthma is completely different.

The highest quality filtration is performed by Vollara air purifiers with a HEPA filter or a photocatalytic filter. Such air purifiers are recommended for the use in homes with asthma patients and people with allergies.

To assess the efficiency of air purifiers a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) testing is performed. It is based on an analysis of the number of air exchanges, filter efficiency and the amount of clean air supplied by the air cleaner to the room. The higher the CADR, the cleaner the air is produced.

2. Air cleaner performance - the size of the room is an important factor when choosing an air cleaner. Calculate its capacity before buying.

3. Noisiness - since air purifiers must work all the time the noise rate matters. Unfortunately, not every manufacturer indicates the machine’s level of noise.

And before you go out there to buy an air purifier for your home, remember that a good filter can prevent exuberant emissions of nanoparticles from outside into the air you breathe at home. With over 80% of the time an average human being spends indoors, the air you breath may actually impact your health.

An interesting fact before you go: researchers that attempted to filter nanoparticles with less than 1.3 nanometers in size pointed out that these nanoparticles were in fact very close to being a gas molecule. But the filtering properties differed completely.

By all means, getting a high-quality air purifier is very much worth it if you have people weak in health at home, babies or seniors; if you are an asthma patient or have allergies; if it is important to have the cleanest air possible at your place go to Ecoquest store.

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