IMPROVING THE AIR WE BREATHE
As we all now walk around wearing face masks to protect ourselves and each other due to COVID-19, never has more attention been placed on the importance of the quality of air we breathe here on island and the rest of the world.
Plus, with the more vulnerable amongst us, the elderly and those with compromised immune system, urged to stay home to avoid the risk of getting exposed to the virus, indoor air quality has also now become a huge concern.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency states that in addition to close contact with infected people and contaminated surfaces, COVID-19 may also spread via airborne particles in indoor environments, in some circumstances beyond the recommended 6ft range for social distancing.
Although the risk of COVID-19 cannot be eliminated by just improving ventilation and cleaning the air alone, EPA recommends “increasing ventilation with outdoor air and air filtration as important components of a larger strategy that includes social distancing, wearing cloth face coverings or masks, surface cleaning and disinfecting, hand washing, and other precautions.”
Last Tuesday, DOCOMO Pacific announced its partnership with Aura Air to help improve indoor air quality here in the Marianas.
“Air quality requires our attention today. While many of us worry about the outside air, indoor air is five times more polluted. With most of us spending 90% of our time indoors, every breath we take affects our overall health more than we may realize.”
Indoor air pollution, a global emergency
Aura Air was founded three years ago, in Israel, with the mission of improving indoor air quality globally. The coronavirus pandemic may have heightened our concern on the air we breathe now, but indoor air pollution has been a global public emergency even before COVID-19.
According to EPA, at home, indoor pollution sources that release gases or particles into the air are the primary cause of indoor air quality problems. These include combustion sources such as oil, gas, kerosene, coal, wood, tobacco products, building materials and furnishings, household cleaning products, and central heating and cooling systems and humidification devices. Higher temperature and humidity levels also make indoor pollution worse.
“Molds, pollutants, allergens, airborne viruses like the coronavirus, all contribute to poor respiratory [system], and lower immune health… We were able to find what we think is the best air filter available, and one that would fit well with our ‘Smart Island, Smart Life’ focus,” DOCOMO Pacific president and CEO Roderick Boss said. “We’re really proud to partner with Aura Air and bring this revolutionary product to Guam and the CNMI, so we can all breathe easy.”
Aura Air operates in more than 44 countries, in hospitals, hotels, schools, offices, and transportation. This includes, in the United States, the University of Maryland and Jacksonville University in Florida, Hilton Hotels, Silverstein Properties in New York, Carrier Headquarters in Florida, among others.
How Aura Air works
“Our technology is a data driven air quality platform, based on user behavior algorithms,” Aura Air vice president for sales and business development Roei Friedberg explained. “It is a device which you hang on the wall or ceiling, connect to electricity, and it will cover up to 600 sq. ft.”
An “all-in-one indoor air purification and quality intelligence system,” Aura filters and disinfects indoor air through a unique four-stage purification process—detection, algorithm, purification and disinfection, and real-time monitoring.
Aura Air will detect real time parameters of indoor and outdoor air quality based on real-time monitoring through an array of smart sensors. These include, for indoors, parameters like smoke, CO, CO2, VOC, PM 2.5, and PM10, temperature, and humidity. The idea is for the device to understand the origin of the problem.
The algorithm then allows users to personalize—control, define, and modify functionalities of the device. The algorithm will understand where the device is installed, and who the end users are. Is it inside a hospital, in a room for a patient with asthma? Is it inside a house? After understanding the environment and the end users, the device will adapt functions and recommendations based on the algorithm.
Third is purification and disinfection, a step which follows four unique stages of filtration and disinfection. This include the pre-filter that captures large particles of dust, pollen, insects, animal hair, followed by the second stage, Aura Air’s patent Ray filter, which filters smaller particles (0.3 microns), VOCs and bad odors, as well as viruses and bacteria.
According to Friedberg, inside the device are four UVC LEDs that targets and disinfects smaller microns, such as coronavirus. Aside from that, it also is built with a Sterionizer that purifies and freshens indoor air by eliminating harmful pollutants.
Lastly, air quality data is monitored in real-time to provide customized insights and recommendations to the end-users based on their health needs. Aura Air is a plug and play device, with a mobile app to see real time indoor and outdoor air quality data and recommendations. The installation takes around four minutes, and maintenance around three seconds, added Friedberg.
Clearing indoor air of pollution
“The importance of the system is not only to prevent the infection of COVID-19 but all kinds of droplets infection, and to decrease illness of this kind of infection, regarding all types of the pathogens,” Dr. Vladimir Glukhman said.
Glukhman, who has a PhD in microbiology, led the Aura Air pilot program at Sheba Medical Center in Israel, recognized as one of the 10 best hospitals in the world. “I have experience about 25 years in this field of environmental protection. First time I see this kind of effectiveness for virus infection,” he added.
Last week, DOCOMO Pacific delivered smart air filters to the Guam Memorial Hospital, as part of a pilot program with Aura Air, where air quality in various parts of the hospital will be monitored before the filters get activated, as well as during the air purification process. DOCOMO Pacific has also donated the filters to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. here on Saipan.
“In an effort to mitigate the spread of SARS COV 2 among our staff at Guam Memorial Hospital, we are grateful to take part in the Aura Air pilot program for the benefit of our hospital staff and patients,” said GMH COVID-19 medical director Dr. Joleen Aguon.
Guam Medical Care medical director Dr. Geoffrey Galgo, who has been using the Aura Air filter for a couple of months, also attests that the smart component is groundbreaking, where one can get notified on detections in increases in air pollutants through a phone app.
“With the sustained rise in positive cases, we felt like we needed to do more. When we found Aura Air, we knew that offering a smart air filter, an added layer of protection against COVID-19, would serve a critical need in our hospitals, in our schools and businesses and most importantly, in our homes,” Boss said.
“We want to be really clear that this filter does not claim to be a replacement for PPE, but it becomes an added layer of protection. Please continue to wash your hands, wear a mask and socially distance, and follow mandates set forth by local government health professionals,” he added.
Aside from hospitals, Aura filters have also been placed in all of DOCOMO Pacific’s retail locations. Aura Air’s goal is to be able to operate in the most important hospitals in the world, in offices, in hotel rooms, retail stores, and even homes, to provide a healthy and safe indoor environment for all.
Aura Air units are exclusively available at DOCOMO Pacific for $549 (retail) or $22.88 per month. For more information, visit docomopacific.com or call CNMI 488-CARE.