Air Disinfectant – a necessity not a luxury

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The last decade has made us realise that “air” which is essential for our life can actually be responsible for our deaths. In 2017, 1.2 million deaths in India were attributed to air pollution, which increased to nearly 2 million in 2019. And, half a million of the Indian population died due to COVID-19 as the virus spread through the air. While we have become nearly paranoid about covid, let us not forget that an equal number of people die of tuberculosis too. 

Air Disinfectant – a necessity not a luxury

Most people spend more time indoor then outdoors, be it at home or at work. We spend a lot to create a pleasant ambience at home and work spaces. A good amount of our life’s savings is utilised for a good decor, the appropriate colour schemes, comfortable furniture and the optimal utilization of spaces. We pay a high amount for maintenance of our premises, but we tend to “miss out” on the necessity of keeping our indoor air clean. The air that can harbour coronavirus, the TB causing bacteria and also fungal spores. This are often brought in by people visiting us or we ourselves could be “fortunate carriers”, who have no symptoms but can pass it on to “unfortunate’ friends and families who may not have strong immune system.

Maintaining indoor air quality is the need of the hour; there are three important ways of doing so. Firstly, spraying of chemicals to disinfect the air, ensuring that the air is cleaned when it enters in our indoor spaces and finally, use of specific air disinfection devices in the rooms. Spraying chemicals into our rooms is not advisable as its prolonged use may cause skin irritation and we would be breathing the chemical consistently which is avoidable as we do not know the long-term effects. Installing complex HVAC units with built in air filtration systems at home is a very expensive affair and requires that the system be running 24×7 leading to huge electricity bills. Additionally, one needs to regularly maintain the filters or they themselves become a source of infection. In the case of air purifiers, today there are so many of them in the market with a wide range of costs and claims. It is complex for even a professional, to understand the vagaries of all that comes “under” air purifiers. We need to be fully aware of the technology behind the air-purifiers or air-disinfection devices that we intend to purchase and whether they suit our requirements. Demand creates products but we need to be careful that the product serves our purpose; Otherwise, we may be under a “false” notion of security. Safety is an important aspect too. Else, there are chances we might not be infected by microbes but get afflicted by the side-effects of air-purification technology itself!  

There are many devices in the market using the principles of ionisers, photocatalytic oxidation, chemical oxidation and electrostatic precipitation. The common feature of all these devices is that the release “reactive ions” or charged particles in the environment which interact with the microbes. In most cases, the charged particles “neutralise’ the microbes but do not destroy them and they continue to settle on the surfaces or floor. We also need to find out the “reach” of these devices and the ions they release – especially in large rooms. These chemicals do not differentiate between human cells and microbial cells and therefore can cause skin or eye irritation.

An ideal solution would be to totally destroy these microbes without any effect on humans, which can be done by plasma to clean air. The strength of this new technology is that it generates plasma within the device and does not release it in the air making it very safe for humans. Air gets sucked into the device and within milliseconds, the microbes are totally destroyed – including their cell membrane, DNA, RNA and all the cellular organelles. Disinfected/clean air is then recirculated back into the room, this process goes on 24×7. They come in different capacities depending upon the size of the room. The smaller units can be placed on any surface, the mid-sized ones can be wall-mounted and the large one is on wheels. It has been given clearance not just for emergency use but also for regular use.  A little expensive compared to air purifiers in the market but with its proven efficacy, safety and with little maintenance costs, it’s worth the investment.

It’s time we become fully aware and take steps on the quality of air we breathe as the same air can make or mar life!

Dr. Rajvi Mehta
Microbiologist and Scientific Consultant to Trivector Biomed LLP | + posts

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