A Breath of Fresh Air with Air Pollution Control

by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor

Recently, on a trip to the top of the long dormant Teide volcano in the Canary Islands, I noticed something quite remarkable. Standing there, 12,198 feet above sea-level, I was overwhelmed not only by the exceptional view, but even more so by the breath I took of what I am sure is the freshest air ever to fill my lungs. The crisp cool air was almost intoxicating and definitively rejuvenating. Despite my fondness for the clean mountain air I soon returned to Michigan to find the air a bit less miraculous. Especially now, months later as I breathe in the muggy hot air of summer I miss the clear air atop the non-industrialized peak. Here and in much of the world air pollution is reaching alarming levels. Regulatory organizations, however, continue to combat this problem and recreate the clean air of the mountains with various types of air pollution control.

Photo courtesy of APC Technologies, Inc.

Though my memory and imagination may get the better of me, I am constantly reminded by reports of air quality that even my beloved Teide air was in actuality much less clean and clear than I believed. While it may be lesser and less noticeable, natural and seemingly fresh air sources often contain traceable amounts of natural and industrial pollution. Common contaminants include pollen, dust, mold, smoke, particulates and more harmful compounds such as hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, pesticides, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxides among the many other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in circulation. In varying degrees these pollutants can wreak havoc on both the environment and the health of nearly all living organisms. For these reasons and others, air filtration systems are not only desired, but often required in many commercial and industrial settings.

Photo courtesy of Epcon Industrial Systems, LP.

Air pollution control devices, also referred to as emission control systems, serve to reduce and eliminate air pollutants. Oxidizers and filters are two broad categories which encompass many different air purifying systems. Filters, such as air scrubbers or electrostatic precipitators use specialized and often fibrous materials to trap and collect debris and other air pollutants. Catalytic or thermal oxidizers on the other hand burn contaminants out of an air source and create non-toxic byproducts. In both types the pollutant materials can sometimes be collected for reuse. Heat recovery systems can also capture the energy otherwise lost in pollution control. Simple benefits such as these serve as simple incentives for the installation of industrial and commercial air pollution controls. Laws and regulations help too, of course.

Photo courtesy of Adwest Technologies, Inc.

While these control systems are certainly a step in the right direction, clean air is not solely the responsibility of big industry. Residential and personal applications are widely implicated as a source of air pollution. Personal pollution control equipment is increasingly available and increasingly popular as more people experience the many benefits of breathing clean air. Though I would love to return to breathe the incredible air of Teide, I would more love to be able to experience that euphoric breath of fresh air, or perhaps even fresher, wherever I am. The proper application of air pollution control may one day bring such a lofty aspiration, as well as the fresh mountain air, back down to earth.

Photo courtesy of Anguil Environmental Systems, Inc.

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