We breathe every four seconds, around 22,000 breaths a day. In the highly-polluted areas of inner cities, we breathe in more than 25 million particles with each breath. We inhale fine dust, viruses and bacteria, exposing us to countless other health-endangering particles and gases. For many of those working in any of the industrial and manufacturing units face serious health threats from a range of pollutants including oil mist, dust, and fumes containing manganese, lead, hexavalent chromium, and other toxic elements.
The quality of indoor air inside offices, schools, and other workplaces is important not only for workers’ comfort but also for their health. Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. In addition, some exposures, such as asbestos and radon, do not cause immediate symptoms but can lead to cancer after many years.
Many countries have their own Ambient Air Quality Standards prescribed for their territories, India too has its National Ambient Air Quality Standards set by Central Pollution Control Board. But when it comes to industries, lack of clear guidelines and implementation framework has put most of India’s workforce under the increasing threat of disease caused by poor IAQ.
Air Quality: Sources and Effects
Air pollution has many natural and man-made sources but consists mostly of solid particulate matter generally recognized by the size of pollutants. The range of pollutants vary from less than one micron, PM1 to larger pollutants with a size ranging up to 10 microns known as PM10. The greatest risk to human health from air pollution is related to breathing PM1, the smallest and most dangerous particulate matter, which by number is predominantly comprised of nano and ultrafine particles.
Most of the PM1 particles originate from combustion and various sensitive manufacturing processes. These invisible elements can constrict the airways of the lungs, increase the chance of developing asthma, and unleash free radicals to catalyze carcinogens in the bloodstream and activate cellular processes that may lead to cancer or cardiovascular disease. Particles from natural sources tend to be at the larger end of the size spectrum and include pollen, forest fires, volcanoes, and windblown soil and sand.
A majority of air quality problems emerging from metalworking operations and allied industries can be traced to weld smoke and fumes, which vary in their toxicity based on the type of welding process, base metal, filler metals used, and welding rod composition. Of all the fumes generated in welding, 85 percent comes from the electrode, with particle sizes ranging from 0.1 to 5.0 microns.
Improving Air Quality: Filtration to the rescue
Thanks to the efforts of the World Health Organization (WHO) and other public health agencies, there is a greater awareness about the negative effects of air pollution. Focus on workplace health and safety has increased over recent decades. Superior IAQ helps not only helps companies attract and retain employees but also keeps the keeps the health and productivity levels at a high. Better IAQ can also considerable impact an organization efforts to achieve sustainability targets through responsible manufacturing.
Most industrial plants and manufacturing units today incorporate air handling units to distribute a blend of outdoor air and recirculated indoor air. Still, there are a lot of industrial units without any HVAC infrastructure. This lets uncontrolled quantities of outdoor air enter buildings by infiltration through windows, doors, and gaps in the exterior construction leading to increasing contamination of outdoor pollutants in indoor air.
In a bid to cut down on the cost, many industries also incorporate HVAC designs that include units that introduce 100% outdoor air or that simply transfer air within the building. If polluted outdoor air is not effectively filtered and cleaned before the ventilation system distributes it, the indoor air will contain a large quantity of the harmful particulates that find their way into people’s respiratory tract and circulation system. These particles substances can also combine with those already present indoors and become more aggressive and harmful. Most air purifiers have monitors that show levels of particulate matter coming down indoors by 50% to 90%. With quality air filters in air handling units, a significant proportion of these air pollutants can be stopped, but it will be increasingly important to choose the right filter and efficiency for the targeted particulate matter to protect human health.
At Camfil, we are committed towards providing advanced clean air solutions in the most energy efficient way. We want people to breathe clean air with total confidence. As a world leader in air filtration, our mission is to supply world-class filters to protect people and processes from poor quality air and make clean air a birth right for everyone. However, the Indian statutory framework on air has no clear demands on data generation either at the level of measurement or scientific research to determine the effects of pollution. India’s primary regulatory approach licenses specified industrial activities to pollute within specified standards. Regulation is therefore not pitched at the level of ambient air quality but kicks in when an individual polluter violates the terms of his license.
To address the challenges of standardization and efficiency, ISO global standard (ISO 16890) has been introduced across the world. This will make it easier for industrial and individual buyers to distinctly identify and make informed choices based on their requirements. Camfil advocates the need for the government to bring in stringent policy on air pollution control in India. We urge the influencers to stay committed in making clean air a human right.