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New Device Traps and Kills Allergy-causing Particles in the Air

Researchers have created an air filter to trap and neutralize harmful airborne particles, including bacteria and viruses.

Air Filtration

Each time we breathe in, we expose ourselves to a range of airborne
particles that can exacerbate allergies and asthma and cause respiratory
infections.

To kill these harmful particles, researchers have
constructed a new device called the soft x-ray electrostatic
precipitator, which functions more efficiently than the standard air
filters used in most hospitals, aircraft, and homes today, according to a study published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

The
device, known for short as SXC ESP, not only captures particles often
missed by standard air filters, but inactivates them as well, said study
co-author Pratim Biswas of Washington University in St. Louis.

It
has a range of potential uses, including providing protection for
people with respiratory illnesses or inhalation-induced allergies,
shielding buildings from bio-terror attacks, filtering air in clean
rooms used for semiconductor fabrication, removing ultrafine particles
in power plants, and capturing diesel exhaust particulates, said Biswas
in a press release.

According to the study, scientists used this
technology to successfully protect mice from airborne pathogenic
bacteria, viruses, ultrafine particles, and allergens. The SXC ESP works
by giving the particles an electrical charge and then using an
electrical field to trap and inactivate them.

Asthma By the Numbers

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,
18.9 million adults and 7.1 million children are living with asthma, “a
chronic respiratory disease that can be triggered by inhalation
exposure to diesel soot as well as allergens such as fungal spores,
pollen, and pet dander.”  According to the study, asthma was ranked the
fifth-most costly health care expenditure in the U.S. in 2006, at $51.3
billion dollars.

“Considering that citizens of developed nations
normally spend 87 percent of their time indoors, properly maintaining
indoor air-quality is clearly an absolute necessity for the protection
of public health,” the study authors wrote.

The standard filters
used in today’s hospitals, aircraft, and cars are HEPA filters, which
are capable of removing airborne particles larger than 0.3 micrometers
with 99.97 percent efficiency. This level of efficiency is vital when it
comes to hospital air handling systems that “service operating rooms
where bone marrow transplant and medical device implant surgeries are
performed,” the authors said.

However, the SXC ESP exceeds
this standard of efficiency, and maintaining the quality of most HEPA
filters can be quite costly, requiring additional energy consumption and
regular filter replacement.

“Because of lower power requirements
and reduced maintenance costs, electrostatic precipitation (ESP) has
established itself as a feasible particulate control alternative,” the
study authors wrote.

“Cost is not too high,” Biswa said, “–cheaper in the long run than HEPA filter systems.”

Cleaner Air Is on the Horizon

Consumers
won’t have to wait long before soft X-ray enhanced electrostatic
precipitation technology is incorporated in a variety of applications,
said Biswas in an interview with Healthline. The possibilities seem
endless.   

“A company, ACT, is working on commercializing it now,” he said.

According
to Biswas, we can expect this new air filtration system to be
integrated into diesel engine exhausts, indoor air conditioners,
bio-hoods, refrigerators, residential HVAC systems, medical clean rooms,
and even prisons.

This technology is ideal for indoor air quality
improvement, and could provide a remedy for allergy sufferers at a low
cost. It also comes in various shapes and sizes to fit your
needs—“cylindrical, tubular or rectangular,” Biswas said.

Learn More:

  • 30 Treatments for Allergies
  • Allergies Topic Center
  • Allergies: Are They in Your Genes?
  • Make Healthier Cleaners

Posted by: Dr.Health

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