Luca Gatti – CEO, Air Control. Official distributor for Dust Free Europe & MENA

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About Air control

For more than 15 years we have been producing and marketing products capable of improving the efficiency and comfort of air conditioning and treatment systems with temperature control and air purification technologies.

We import a system of motorized grids for ductable air conditioning systems, and we produce a wide range of accessories and machines for the distribution and exchange of air for both residential and industrial sectors. 

We are the distributors for Europe and MENA of Dust Free, American technology that allows you to purify the air by breaking down bacteria, viruses, and odors in air ducts, environments, and surfaces.

Through the 30 sales agencies, we offer HVAC solutions dedicated to all sectors; our technologies are used in more than 10,000 installations throughout Italy.

The increased awareness of the problems related to air pollution is leading the company to grow exponentially with purification systems; we have made the air cleaner in airports, shopping centers, hotels, supermarkets, and hospitals (Carosello shopping center, Crown Plaza and NH hotels, Esselunga supermarkets, Campolongo hospital) and we have developed several patents: from the wardrobe that sanitizes clothes distributed to world-class from LEMA, to the dustbin that eliminates odors, to the sanitized lift and others that will soon be in the market.
We’re also collaborating with UTA and fancoil producers – Aermec, Caladair, Innova, Vortice.


1.

Why should we give more importance to the quality of the air we breathe every day?

There is no longer any doubt that air pollution represents a risk to human health, even if, for many of the harmful substances that are part of the complex mixture that constitutes air pollution, the effects are not fully known. 

Atmospheric pollution does not only affect the respiratory system. In fact, bacteria, viruses, and allergens such as pollen or substances contained in tobacco smoke can also cause other diseases on a more general level. 

For example, inhaled harmful microparticles, commonly known as PM10, PM2.5, which reach the lungs via absorption into the blood, can negatively affect the brain, bones, teeth, kidneys and even affect the cardiocirculatory system.

We spend 90% of our time indoors, and even though we may think that the air we breathe at home can be less polluted, indoor air quality can be up to 5 times more polluted than the one from outdoors. 

2.

Why do we talk about Particulate Matter, and what does it mean?

Because the notorious PM (particulate matter), a term that does not indicate a specific substance but a set of compounds suspended in the air, whose molecules have dimensions of less than tens of nanometers (the acronym Pm2,5 indicates, for example, particles smaller than 2.5 nanometers in diameter, and so on).

The PM we hear about every day is divided into PM10: generally dust, pollen, molds.

Pm2.5 corresponds to particles produced by combustion gases, organic compounds, bacteria, and suspended metals.

To give an idea of ​​the size we are talking about, a hair has an average diameter of 50/70 nanometers.

3.

What are the health effects of suspended particles? 

Several studies conducted in many European countries have shown an association between the levels of air pollutants and the daily number of deaths or hospital admissions due to respiratory and cardiovascular causes.

Epidemiological studies have shown that the higher the concentration of particles in the air, the greater the effect on the population’s health. 

Nine out of ten people around the world commonly breathe polluted air, both outdoors and indoors, and the price to pay is very high. 

According to estimates from the latest report from the World Health Organization, published last May, 7 million people lose their lives every year due to exposure to indoor or outdoor pollution.

4.

What defense mechanisms does our body have against the PM?

The respiratory tract has several “defense mechanisms” against foreign substances that enter it. The upper airways are lined with a mucous membrane, consisting mainly of hair cells (with tiny hairs) and goblet cells (which secrete mucus). 

The filaments of the cells move in a wave, in a coordinated way; thus, they transport the thin layer of mucus and the foreign substances that remain attached to the oral cavity, where they are swallowed. 

Furthermore, there are the endings of very fine nerve fibers between the mucosa cells that can be irritated by harmful substances in the air and can cause a contraction of the bronchial muscles, an increase in mucus secretion, and cause cough. 

In the alveoli, the deepest parts of the lungs, the cleaning function is no longer carried out by these cells but by other cells called macrophages (or scavenger cells) that eat and dispose of the bacteria that have entered the body, as well as the remains of destroyed cells. 

The harmful substances that enter the airways can, both as a result of acute (ie short-term) and chronic exposures, damage all these defense mechanisms in various ways.

5.

Why should we give more importance to the air quality we breathe every day in confined spaces such as homes and workplaces?

We spend up to 90% of our time indoors and around 30-40% in the workplace. For this reason, indoor pollution is potentially more dangerous than outdoor pollution that we often hear about.

In fact, it is assumed that about 40% of absences from work due to illness are due to problems related to the quality of the indoor air in the workplace.

In 1998 the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency – USA), through the IEMB (Indoor Environment Management Branch), compared the concentration/exposure level of numerous air pollutants recorded in an indoor environment with the level recorded in an outdoor environment. 

The data analysis confirmed that indoor versus outdoor concentrations are generally 1 to 5 times higher and that indoor exposure is 10 to 50 times higher than outdoor exposure.


6.

What are the risk factors that influence the IAQ?

  • External polluting sources (air pollution) above mentioned.
  • Internal polluting sources (building materials, furniture, paint for whitewashing)
  • Plant systems (ventilation/combustion systems, household, and office equipment)
  • Human activities (metabolic processes, pets, tobacco smoke, cooking food, and detergents)

7.

You mentioned HVAC systems among the possible causes of Indoor Air Quality contamination. Why?

In addition to external pollution, common activities such as cooking, heating, cleaning release gases and particles into the air that can be harmful to humans.

Dust, pollen, cigarette smoke, or substances deriving from cooking food, viruses, fibers released from materials of various kinds are just some of the polluting elements that remain suspended in the air and often creep into the channels of mechanical ventilation systems contaminating them.

Dust deposits and encrustations deposited overtime on the channels’ surfaces favor microclimatic conditions, especially temperature and high relative humidity.

These two combined conditions constitute an ideal breeding ground for various fungal and bacterial species and microorganisms (mites).

The air distribution system favors the transport of dust and microorganisms to confined spaces.

8.

Why then are mechanical ventilation systems used in the latest generation buildings?

It is the new construction methods that require homes and buildings to be equipped with mechanical ventilation systems. The new generation buildings are built with high-performance materials and insulation that increasingly improve the energy efficiency of buildings, however completely isolating them from the outside.

This situation makes it necessary to use plant systems to allow buildings to provide us with the correct air changes, which are an indispensable prerogative to obtain a good level of IAQ.

9.

What is generally the current situation of the level of contamination of the systems present in today’s buildings?

Some regulations require you to take care of the maintenance of air conditioning and ventilation systems precisely to prevent these systems that should have the function of improving indoor comfort from becoming a cause of discomfort and bacterial contamination.

Generally, to determine the healthiness of an air conditioning system, we need to analyze two parameters:

  •  the amount of dust per cm2 
  • the total bacterial load on the same unit of surface 

These operations are generally performed by qualified technicians.

Unfortunately, if we look at the current data, it says that about 90% of the HVAC systems go beyond the permitted limits and, in a few cases, the conditions are really dangerous for human exposure.

10.

If the new building generation has the obligation to be equipped with mechanical ventilation systems that will become contaminated over time and which will become a risk factor for IAQ, how can the problem be solved?

It is certainly important to take care of the health of the systems with proper maintenance, which allows preventing their contamination.

The most common maintenance involves changing filters on a regular basis.

We also recommend integrating continuous sanitation systems into the ventilation channels to preserve the HVAC system from any contamination of pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, molds, and allergens.

11.

Can you explain better what is the sanitation technology about?

Photocatalytic Oxidation technology (PCO™), better known as photocatalytic oxidation, was developed and used for the sanitation of environments intended for aerospace missions, where one of the main prerogatives is the quality and healthiness of the air.

The PCO™ technology imitates and reproduces what happens in nature through photocatalysis, a process that, thanks to the combined action of the UV rays of the sun, the humidity present in the air and some noble metals present in nature, generates oxidizing ions capable of destroying the most polluting and toxic substances.

The photochemical reaction generated thanks to the PCO™ allows destroying pollutants, particularly bacteria, viruses, and molds, with a natural active principle.

The PCO™ technology of the DUST FREE modules exploits the combined action of the rays of a special UV lamp with a catalyst structure consisting of a metal alloy with a honeycomb matrix, mainly composed of TiO2 (titanium dioxide) and other noble metals in lower measure.

The air, full of moisture (H2O), passes through the Dust Free module composed of a square or penta-metallic combination.

Thanks to the action of a special high-intensity UV lamp, a photochemical oxidation reaction is initiated that generates ROS (Reactive Oxygen Species).

Do you remember that famous video game called Pacman, where the purpose of the yellow face was to eat all the dots on the screen? 

Our technology creates millions of Pacmen able to run inside the ducts of air distribution systems and treated environments, eating pathogens that are harmful to health.

This is why we speak of active technology, it’s something that not only works where it is installed but also and above all on what comes after it, including the environments treated.

12.

What are the benefits of using Dust Free technology?

The tests, conducted by laboratories and universities, demonstrate the effectiveness of photocatalytic oxidation technology in reducing the bacterial load present both in the channels and in the treated environments, both in the air and on their surfaces.

Furthermore, a significant efficacy has also been demonstrated in the reduction of various types of odors.

13.

In which sectors is Dust Free technology used?

  • Residential: Elimination of bacteria and molds / healthier and more comfortable environment
  • Hospital: reduction of bacterial proliferation / fewer infections and contagions
  • Food: elimination of molds and bacteria / better conservation
  • Industrial: reduction of pollutants from healthier processing/work environment
  • Transport: Fewer bacteria and mold contamination / safer transport

14.

The regulatory landscape at the time of Covid-19:

We are waiting for the CTI (Italian Thermotechnical Committee) to publish a document that will explain how the issue of filtration and prevention in air conditioning and ventilation systems should be addressed in times of COVID-19.

This document will highlight the important role of filters, which retain the dust, the main vehicle for the spread of pathogens, including Covid-19.

Therefore, the more efficient the filtration, the less chance the contaminants can spread through the air.

According to this principle, the number of air changes that a system or an air purifier can guarantee in a given environment is significant. 

This data, together with the degree of overall filtration efficiency, are currently the main parameters on which it is based the effectiveness of a purification system.

In this CTI document, some innovative technologies will also be identified, including the PCO, which can be combined with classic filters to minimize contagion risks. If correctly sized, they can significantly reduce the related biological risks.

Therefore we can say that attention in regulatory terms is finally starting to look also at the quality of the air, intended not as a concentration of dust to be retained, but also in terms of contaminants to be removed.

This will be a long and complex regulatory process, and it is equally clear that to date, the most significant difficulty that these new technologies encounter is that of not finding an objective confirmation in terms of dedicated regulations, which allow both the professional and the end-user to clearly understand what performance these new technologies are able to guarantee.

Therefore, to date, the only valid solution is to demonstrate through certified bodies and laboratories the effectiveness of these technologies in various conditions to demonstrate that through their use, it is possible to make confined environments much healthier and safer for their occupants.

We are following this path on several fronts by collaborating with various certified bodies and laboratories that have allowed us to give objective feedback on the effectiveness of the PCO both in the laboratory and in real environments.

Do you want to ask our experts on this issue? We’ll be happy to help you solve your indoor air quality questions, get in touch with our Air Quality Experts.  

Find us here.  

See more articles:

What is photocatalytic oxidation and how does it works 

What’s Dust Free? 

5 trends in the indoor quality industry for 2021

Indoor Air Quality and concentration at work

How to guarantee air purifier’s efficacy

Do you need help from our experts?

Find out how Dust Free can help you improve your indoor air quality

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