Providing protection against pollutants

Ventilation has a key role to play in creating a healthy home. Lee Caulfield, Sales Director, Titon Vent Systems Division, looks at how ventilation products have evolved, explaining how they can be used to help create a healthier indoor environment.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. When it comes to ensuring a good standard of IAQ, ventilation is clearly important in terms of reducing condensation and associated mould growth, both of which have been linked to allergies, illnesses and health conditions such as asthma.

Inside a home, IAQ can be inadvertently affected by pollution from a variety of sources, including gas stoves, wood burners, home cleaning products and even personal care products like nail varnish and deodorant. As Europeans spend an estimated 90% of their time indoors, it is clearly important to ensure the air inside a property remains as clean and healthy as possible.

While the health effects of outdoor or ambient air pollution have been well-documented, less research has been undertaken on the impact of indoor air quality – although there is evidence suggesting it can have a serious impact. Indeed, statistics revealed to coincide with ‘Clean Air Day’ in June earlier this year attributed 9000 of the estimated 40,000 annual deaths from air pollution in the UK to indoor air pollution.

Healthy option
In terms of ventilation, there are many existing strategies in place for new build properties, with mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) being the best approach regarding long term energy efficiency requirements. This is the only option that can actually recover heat from exhaust air and, by specifying MVHR System 4 in a home, moisture and airborne contaminants can be removed, leading to a healthier indoor environment for occupants.

With demand for new homes continuing to rise, properties are being built in a variety of different environments, ranging from brownfield sites to inner city areas, each with their own unique surroundings and complications. As a result, in some instances, extracting moisture and airborne contaminants using MVHR is not enough – and the actual air quality coming into a property also requires careful consideration.

Filter protection
Currently, MVHR systems offer different grades of filters that can be placed within the ventilation unit to combat PM10 and PM2.5 particulate matter, depending on the type of filter used (F7 or G4). PM2.5 particulates are particularly nasty; measuring less than 2.5 micrometres, they are too small to see with the eye, yet pose a significant health risk, as they can easily find their way into people’s lungs and then their bloodstream. However, there are also numerous other external contaminants posing a threat to IAQ. These include sulphur dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, hydrogen chloride, chlorine, ammonia odours, volatile organic compounds, solvents and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) – all of which can be found in urban and highly polluted areas.

This has led to the introduction of specially designed NO2 filters that can be added to an MVHR system and remove these pollutants, the majority of which are produced by diesel engines. Any installed NO2 filters must conform to the EU Directive 2008/50/EC (AKA the Clean Air for Europe programme, or the CAFE Directive), which was introduced to protect against significant negative effects of air pollution on human health and the environment. Filters also need to comply with Part F (ventilation) of the Building Regulations, especially the pages relating to ADF’s performance criteria for dwellings, stating that exposure to nitrogen dioxide should not exceed 288 µg/m over a one-hour average, and 40 µg/m over a long-term average.

It is also worth noting that, as of July this year, the new ISO16890 standard ‘Air Filters for General Ventilation’ became mandatory, replacing EN779:2012. This amendment has presented a significant change in terms of how air filters are evaluated. ISO16890 focuses on filtration performance to the classes of particulate matter sizes, looking at test data more realistically than the theoretical basis of EN779. The new ISO standard is based on particulate matter evaluation parameters as used by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and other authorities. Using these parameters will make it easier for users to select the right air filter based on their individual requirements.

Balanced flow
Modern NO2 filters, such as our own, award-winning Trimbox NO2 Filter, incorporate balanced flow technology to reduce NO2 to an acceptable mean concentration level of 40µg/m3. (Indeed, independent tests have demonstrated such units to absorb 98% of NO2 not only in normal, continuous ventilation mode but also at boost or higher ventilation rates.) These filters can be installed in both inlet and supply ducting, as well as used in small to large, multi-storey dwellings – provided they are able to operate with variable airflow.

The Trimbox NO2 Filter offers a compact design and benefits from a pre-filter option which increases protection from external contaminants, while helping to create a healthy home. These units also boast exceptional acoustic properties, ensuring occupants are not disturbed by unwanted noise.

So, with pollution in cities and urban areas on the rise, coupled with people spending more time indoors, ventilation has a vital role to play in ensuring modern homes remain healthy. Plus, with more properties being built in urban environments, it is more important than ever to utilise effective MVHR systems in conjunction with a suitable NO2 filter. This will safeguard against pollutants – and predominantly exhaust gases from diesel engines – from entering a property. Utilising such ventilation products and systems will certainly help to create healthy homes for occupants, while simultaneously ensuring a high standard of indoor air quality.

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