Asthma is a prevalent modern disease that appears to be on the rise. The causes are not entirely known, but many asthmatics and parents of asthmatic children have learned some of the triggers that lead to an attack. A good asthma air purifier in the home can help reduce the level of these triggers, and thus help prevent further asthma attacks.
Asthma is a kind of allergic response in which the airways in the lungs become irritated and swell up, restricting airflow. It can be a very frightening experience, when getting a breath of air feels nearly impossible. Young children in particular can be traumatized by asthma attacks, because it is difficult to get them to calm down when the reaction is occurring, and calm is important in mitigating the seriousness of the attack. Unfortunately, asthma is becoming more and more common in our industrialized world.
Although we tend to think of our households as being safer than outside our doors, in the case of air quality indoor air can often be worse, even in urban centres. This is because not only is the air inside essentially the same as outside, there are often trapped components that help create an unhealthy atmosphere. Some of the most common triggers for asthma attacks are house dust, mold spores, pollen, and pet dander.
Another category which is known to trigger asthma is volatile organic compounds, or VOC's. These are a by-product of the manufacturing process of much of our household products, including carpet, furniture, paint, lacquers, all kinds of plastics, and cleaning supplies. Sensitivity to VOC's varies, but many people experience symptoms without being aware of what the cause is.
The good news for asthmatics is that controlling many of these triggers is easily possible with a good home air purifier. Because most of the triggers can be categorized as particulates, these can be filtered out of the air flow using a good HEPA filter. HEPA filters are capable of filtering particles as small as 0.3 microns, meaning it can even catch bacteria, which are generally 0.2 to 20 microns in size. A good asthma air purifier should have a pre-filter which catches larger dust and hair first, then passes the air through a second filter to grab the most minute particles.
It is important that the filters be changed regularly, as the filters will clog up and the amount of air that can then be passed through the filter will drop. Replacement of the filters will depend on the unit, its amount of usage, and of course the condition of the air that it is filtering. Be sure to monitor the filter, especially when first using the unit, to get an idea how often it should be changed. Many units come with a filter alert system, that reminds you when it is time to change the filter.
Unfortunately when it comes to VOC's it is much more difficult to remove them from the air due to their often minute size. The good news is that VOC ‘off-gassing’ or ‘out-gassing’ as it is known, usually only occurs for a short period of time, when a product is new. The passage of time and regular exchanges of air (with an open window, for instance) can often reduce the problem considerably.
There is a new kind of system on the market called photocatalytic air purifier which uses a sophisticated ultraviolet method to create free radicals which actually breakdown VOC's completely. The manufacturer claims for these units are outstanding, however, even with this kind of system in place, for the asthmatic it is still important to remove irritating particles from the air as well.
The home should be a sanctuary, but unfortunately much of our modern lifestyle comes at a price. The sharp rise in asthma-sufferers is testament to this. But at least with an asthma air purifier in place, we can make our homes healthy and comfortable for all.
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Brent Craig has a dedicated interest in healthy homes and environmentally friendly lifestyles. He lives in Toronto.