Ultrafine pollution getting worse, says top scientist

A leading air-quality scientist says air pollution, especially ultrafine particle pollution, is getting worse, not better. Speaking in July to a community gathering in Long Beach, Calif., Dr. John Froines, the director of the Southern California Particle Center, said increasing numbers of ultrafine particles in the air are the result of new technologies that reduce the size of air pollution particles but increase overall pollution. Air quality agencies do not currently measure and report ultrafine particle levels.

Froines, addressing the members of the Long Beach Alliance for Children with Asthma, pointed out that ultrafine particles are in fact the most dangerous particles of all. These microscopic particles, Froines said, “have direct access to intracellular proteins, organelles and DNA which may greatly enhance their toxic potential,” the Contra Costa (Calif.) Times reported.

“There has to be a focus on ultrafines, and it hasn’t happened,” Froines was quoted as saying.

IQAir has been working for years to raise public awareness of the dangers of ultrafine particles. IQAir’s HyperHEPA filtration has been tested and certified to filter 99.5% of all airborne particles, including ultrafine particles. No other manufacturer of air purifiers has submitted its filters to the same rigorous testing. While typical HEPA filters concentrate only on particles 0.3 microns in diameter or larger, even the largest ultrafine particles are only 0.1 microns in diameter. Government regulations for ultrafine particles do not currently exist, though ultrafines represent about 90% of all airborne pollution particles.

The Southern California Particle Center, which Froines heads, was formed to study “the underlying mechanisms that produce the health effects associated with exposure to particulate matter.” The research center is part of the Center for Occupational & Environmental Health at the University of California, Los Angeles. One of its projects employs a modified van equipped with a special HEPA air purifier filtration system to study particle levels and HEPA filter effectiveness on various Los Angeles freeways.

The particle center also works closely with other research universities and with government air quality agencies, including the California Air Resources Board (CARB), which has helped focus public attention on the dangers of ultrafine particles. In 2011 CARB awarded Froines the Haagen-Smit Clean Air Award in recognition of his groundbreaking research in air pollution in California.

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