Playtimes April 2014 - page 71

Alice says, “I knew that I couldn’t
attribute it to just pollution, especially
given that we had an air purifier
running all the time. My conclusion
was that her immunity was being
compromised for other reasons.”
Hongkongers are vocal about the
“smog blanket”, joking that walking
in Causeway Bay can feel like you
are smoking directly from a tailpipe.
However, we spend 70 to 90 per cent
of our day indoors – at schools, homes
and offices – so shouldn’t we shift
our focus to what’s happening in our
immediate environment?
Back in 1986, the World Health
Organization (WHO) coined the term
“sick building syndrome” to describe
symptoms that were reportedly a
result of indoor air quality in newly
built buildings in the West. According
to the US Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, many
indoor environments have pollutant
levels two to five times higher, and
occasionally more than 100 times
higher, than outdoor levels due to
occupant activities, building materials
and ambient conditions.
The Hong Kong Environmental
Protection Department (EPD)
issues a list of outdoor air pollutants
it benchmarks in its Air Quality
Objectives: total suspended particles,
respirable suspended particles, sulphur
dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and carbon
dioxide. In addition, the EPD issues
a second list to benchmark indoor
air quality and includes outdoor
pollutants as well as the less-discussed
formaldehyde (found in carpets and
pressed wood), total VOC (volatile
organic compounds, which are found
in paints, laminated wood and dry-
cleaned clothes), radon (a radioactive
gas found in building materials like
granite) and airborne bacteria. Some
reports suggest that more than 50 per
cent of illnesses can be attributed to
these indoor air pollutants.
Know thy enemy
Immunity levels vary and some people
are more susceptible to environmental
allergies and chemical sensitivities.
If your child or partner is falling sick
often, it’s worth the money to get a
professional to do a comprehensive air
quality check for particulate matter,
humidity, biological contaminants
and VOC levels. Location of the
apartment, age of the building,
new furniture, a recent renovation
or a paint job could bump up your
Most air purifier companies will
offer this as a complimentary service.
Jasmine Chan, product director of
Airestec, which specialises in indoor
air quality improvement, says, “We
are most often called in when parents
notice continuous respiratory illness
and skin allergies in their children.
We are not trying to sell people on
the idea that they should be living in
a sterile hospital environment, but
merely that they should assess their
air quality and take into account all
contaminants in a home.”
The good news about air purifiers
on the market today is that many
provide well-tested and commercial-
strength technology for domestic
use. Renaud’s Silver HEPA filter
claims it can reduce up to 50 per cent
of airborne viruses and eliminate
up to 99 per cent of large particles.
Jason Lerwill of Renaud says, “My
customers see a 20-fold drop in
particulate matter within 20 minutes
of running these units.” For those
who are circumspect about running
April 2014
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