Can Indoor Air Quality and smoke coexist? Yes! This article will be a discussion
on the current methods to clean the air of second hand smoke and my recommendations
to you as a smoker who is concerned about your indoor air quality.
There is a solution to the problem. Nothing has ever been accomplished
by banning things. We must address and identify the problem outside of
tax revenues and politicians garnering votes for the next election. The
next few paragraphs will provide various options for your consideration.
At first, let's back up and see why all of a sudden we are having second
hand smoke issues. The age of Aquarius ushered in the age of being prudent
with our energy costs. That was put mildly. The Middle East had us by the
throat by cutting off our energy supplies!
As a result, we in the US had to take steps to counter our tremendous thirst
for oil. We accomplished this by creating more fuel efficient cars, we
insulated our homes and offices more thoroughly and tightened and sealed
them up. Because of this we have cut the oxygen levels in our homes and
A perfect example of this is a fish aquarium. You have a fish that is swimming
around in the aquarium. You notice in the corner there is an oxygen pump.
The water is clear and clean and the fish is happy. Now, when the pump
is unplugged, in a matter of an hour or two you will find a dead fish.
But that is not all, you should begin to notice the growth of algae, mold
and bacteria beginning to form on the top of the water and on the sides
of the tank. What caused it?
The fish is an aerobic cell. Like us, it requires oxygen to live. You shut
off the oxygen pump and you notice the fish begins to die. If you just
decrease the amount of oxygen in the water, you will notice your fish isn't
so perky. What begins to grow are molds, algae, bacteria, etc., these are
considered anaerobic cells. They thrive in an oxygen poor environment.
So, what does this have to do with second hand smoke? Plenty.
As we have sealed up our homes and businesses, our environments have become
like that fish aquarium. We have reduced our oxygen levels. As a result
second hand smoke becomes more of a problem. Remember when you were a kid
and in your house you didn't have insulated walls. Remember our school
houses? Gosh, we had air blowing through them all the time.
Well, oxygen dispenses smoke. We used to have all kinds of air currents
flowing through our homes and offices. Also, when there was smoking going
on, the duct systems of those business environments were kept clear of
molds and mildew. Now that we have taken smoking out of our environments
we have seen an out of control increase in "Sick Building Syndrome" and
"Building Related Illness".
So what are some of our options given these sets of circumstances? There
are many industries out there claiming they have the complete cure for
second hand smoke if you will only listen to them and shell out a bunch
Being an Indoor Air Quality consultant I have come across many different
environments involving second hand smoke, from bingo halls to individual
homes. Everyone acknowledges there is a problem. But, what is the solution?
First of all, nothing is going to be the complete solution, but rather
a combination of steps taken with various products to fit individual circumstances
will greatly reduce the contamination of second hand smoke.
Let's look at individual products and discuss briefly the pros and cons
of each. Then I will offer what I feel is a combination solution that will
be important for you to consider.
Air Filters come in many shapes and sizes from hog hair filters that are
the 50 cent kind from the grocery store to the HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate
Arresting) filter. Originally filters were designed to protect the Heating
and Air Conditioning system, then it seemed like a good idea to use this
format to clean the air. Now, we have air cleaners and filters that are
free-standing and also units that mount right on to the heating and A/C
system. The HEPA which is the most efficient of these kinds of filters
will remove 99.97% of all contaminants that are greater than .03 microns
This sounds good on paper, but because it is a filter you still must get
the air in a room to and through this machine. Plus, much of tobacco smoke
is under .03 microns in size. Air cleaners and HEPA filters are not the
complete solution to improving indoor air quality.
"If you can just exchange enough air on a frequent enough basis you can
get rid of smoke and its odors." This statement is partly true, you can
exhaust out the smoke and it's associated odors and chemicals.
However to bring a huge increase of "fresh" outside air, you must have
a system that can warm or cool that amount of increased air. Generally,
this requires a much larger system to accomplish this. Most people and
businesses don't want to the additional expenses of a larger system, to
compensate for up to 60% fresh make up air.
Positive Pressure Environment
By increasing your ventilation to include fresh make-up air, you will develop
a positive pressure environment. In other words, the pressure inside will
be greater than the pressure outside, so every time a door is open the
air rushes out of the environment. The benefit of this is the smoke will
be disbursed toward the outside walls of the environment instead of lingering
around the center of the home or business.
These systems use small amounts of ozone (O3) to kill smoke
and its associated odors. These are not filters or cleaners because you
are not trying to get the cubic feet of air in a room through a machine.
These machines are designed to electronically recreate the amount of O3that
is naturally occurring in fresh outside air. O3 has been used
for years in water and air purification. The benefits of these systems
are the fact that they will get rid of the odors in the air and also breakdown
the more than 3500 chemicals that are in tobacco smoke to Carbon Dioxide,
Water and Oxygen. You will notice a significant reduction in the mount
of smoke you will see in the air.
Should you consider one of these units, I suggest that you work with someone
who is familiar with its operation and familiar with indoor air quality.
These units, while easy to set up require some instructions on how to get
the most of the unit for your situation.
Germicidal sprays and plug-in air fresheners
I mention these just in passing. Stay away from all of these. Both groups
introduce chemicals into your air which you or a family member could be
sensitive to. Therefore creating a worse problem.
The Ultimate Solution
A combination of the above first four solutions are recommended. A quality
filtration device or air cleaner needs to be mounted on your air system.
Many types of quality filtration devices are available.
I suggest you consider having your Heating and A/C man introduce a little
fresh air into the indoor environment. This serves two purposes, increasing
your ventilation and providing a positive pressure environment.
Consider an O3 generator for you indoor environment. These units
are safe and effective. They produce safe levels of O3into the
indoor environment and do the job on second hand smoke and especially the
odors and chemicals that are associated with second hand tobacco smoke.