Removing Pollutants from Indoor Air
Did you know that 50% of all sicknesses can be traced back to the polluted air in our homes, and that astronauts used to get sick while in space and brought home early? Well, as NASA, the EPA, and all asthmatics know, polluted air lowers our immune systems and allows mold, bacteria and germs to sicken us, our pets and our plants. That’s why nothing grows as well indoors unless we mimic outdoor environments.
Today, we have a growing indoor mold problem that sickens plants as much as humans. But, how can we possibly kill mold 24/7 and still have a space that is safe to live in and grow plants?
First off, counter to popular belief, bleach doesn’t kill mold. Indeed the executive director of a mold-remediation company once wrote, “When you are faced with a wall covered in mold, bleach is not the product to use.” Bleach (whose active ingredient is sodium hypochlorite) is very effective in removing discoloration, but it can leave the microflora that enables the mold to return in exactly the same spot when conditions are right. And what do mold spores need to reactivate? Moisture, which is exactly what you need to grow plants!
Luckily, we’re not doomed to fighting expensive and destructive mold infestations forever (unless we keep doing what we’re already doing, that is). The secret: look to the air.
The only thing that is constant in an indoor environment is air. That means it can be constantly toxic, constantly problematic, constantly monitored and constantly adjusted. Thankfully, it can be automatically modified to be constantly killing microbes, mold spores, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and knocking down pollen, particulates and spores without knocking people, pets, and plants down in the process.
While the standard method of air filters can drop the proverbial ball and let sickness-causing microorganisms through, there is another technology. This newest, and arguably the best, method of cleaning air and keeping buildings safe to be and grow in is called Sanitizing Air Technology (SAT), which was designed for NASA’s growing chambers and astronauts. (Remember how astronauts used to get sick and be sent home? Well, with SAT astronauts don’t get sick.) Here’s the differences:
So, a question: Why isn’t there a ton of mold outside? After all, spores go everywhere, there’s tons of moisture and there aren’t any manmade filters out there. Well, the answer is that UV light, ionization, ozone and hydroxyls all suppress and kill it. These natural killers are utilized by SATs. Here’s a look at them in more detail:
UV light and hydroxyls
UV light kills within a 1- to 1.5-ft. radius. While nice for air going through ducts or a machine, UV light only kills germs and mold going past the UV source. You can’t run all the air in the building, furniture, flooring, cabinets and people through your air vents, much less at the same time.
But, when you add a four-to-five precious-metal-infused honeycomb around a certain wavelength UV light and a fan, you get hydroxyls—miniscule amounts of ozone and other sanitizing air technologies emitted into the air that actively goes out and kills airborne and surface bacteria and microbes.
This kills mold fast—within hours definitely, and sometimes within minutes—but the gas that is produced is very reactive and short-lived. You have to replenish it constantly, and spread it out via fans, HVAC systems and air currents as widely as possible. As it can also piggyback on moisture, it can go pretty much everywhere—which is exactly what you want.
Ionization electrifies any floating particulates in the air. There are positive ions, which are bad for you, and negative ions, which are good for you. In nature, both types of ions are created by the sun.
There are tons of studies out there, but here’s a quick summary of sorts. Negative ions are undetectable molecules that, when we inhale them, produce biochemical reactions that increase serotonin levels. Conversely, room air circulation, heat and humidity, and the proximity of devices that might emit counteracting positive ions (such as computer monitors) can affect negative-ion output levels.
Negative ions also help to eliminate pollen and dust. They make airborne particulates and dust stick together electronically (like magnets) and fall out of the air you’re breathing during daylight (since these ions are created by the sun in nature).
Notice how clean the air is after an electrical storm? So, pulse or radio wave ionizers are great for stopping airborne particulates like pollen or dust from getting into or around plants, people, buildings or manufactured products.
Ozone (O3) is very volatile. As soon as it comes into contact with a VOC, odor or mold, it immediately passes its third molecule to that other compound and changing itself into pure oxygen (O2). Ozone is mostly made outdoors by lightning and the sun’s UV light reacting with O2. Nature makes it, and it neutralizes the Earth’s atmospheric toxins.
But at high levels, ozone can be slightly toxic, break down rubber and damage some types of plants. So, you actually have to be careful how much you use and what you buy. Still, sanitizing a moist room’s walls with concentrated ozone for two to four hours every two to four months can be very effective at eliminating mold—just evacuate the room of people when doing it!
So, which is the best? Well, it depends on the problem, traffic loads, size of room or building, and your budget. The best answer is to call a company that’s experienced and ask for an audit. Sometimes the answer is really easy, but you want exactly the right answer!
Remember, the EPA says to keep windows and doors open as much as possible. Your mission, if you should decide to accept it, is to make your indoor growing environments as clean, or cleaner, than outside—after all, the sun goes down, outside.
Written by Lance Denney
Lance Denney is president of Green Environmental Technologies. Leaving the USAF as a captain, management analysis officer, and navigator, he went from planes to running trains for the next 22 years. His college degree is in business administration from the University of Arizona, with an emphasis on engineering, real estate, patent, contract, and business law.