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A breath of fresh air

The ‘stupidly simple’ tech that cleans your air without costing the Earth
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
A breath of fresh air

This article first appeared in our Love issue of My Green Pod Magazine, distributed with The Guardian on 09 April 2021. Click here to subscribe to our digital edition and get each issue delivered straight to your inbox

We were all quick to celebrate lockdown’s impact on air quality, but spending more time indoors could actually lead to greater exposure to pollution.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), levels of indoor air pollutants can be two to five times higher than they are outside.

‘Research shows that there is actually no ‘safe level’ of air pollution’, says Sharon Isaac-Upton, founder of Airbon. ‘It doesn’t matter where we live; contaminants come from both indoor and outdoor pollution.’

Companies have developed all sorts of tech in their mission to sell us cleaner air, and the result is a product landscape that is unnecessarily complicated and confusing.

‘Gimmicks and marketing sell purifiers’, Sharon tells us. ‘Big purifier companies compete over layers of filtration, but the reality is you need just two: a HEPA filter for particulate matter (PM) and a carbon filter for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) – that’s it! But simplicity isn’t where the money is. It’s the claims of proprietary technology, often not tested by third parties, or fancy imported filters that conveniently involve you paying a premium.’

Cost-effective purification at home

Airbon is the UK distributor of The Sqair air purifier, manufactured by Smart Air Filters. A social enterprise and certified B Corporation, Smart Air Filters is driven not by profits but by the urge to reduce air pollution and improve health.

The Sqair is a stylish sum of what Airbon describes as the ‘stupidly simple’ technology behind an effective air purifier: a fan and a filter. ‘By focusing on these two things, The Sqair works out to be the most cost-effective air purifier in the world’, she tells us.

Air quality in cars

Air quality isn’t just an issue in the home; car cabins are confined spaces that can trap particulates and VOCs from in-car and outdoor sources.

Some cabin filters clean air more effectively than others, but they are often expensive to replace – and they don’t always tackle gases or VOCs from car interiors and fumes.

The high VOC levels inside cars suggest we should opt for the best activated charcoal to remove the most toxins. Airbon’s passive air purifier uses micropore activated charcoal from coconut shell, which absorbs VOCs three to four times more effectively than other types of charcoal.

‘We lab tested a used Airbon box after four months and found that just 1g had absorbed 998ppm of benzene’, Sharon reveals. ‘There are 50g in each box, so it’s capturing a lot of benzene that could otherwise end up in the driver’s lungs.’

Airbon uses activated charcoal to actively purify the air in your car

‘Manufacturers will try to get you to spend a fortune to get clean air, but all you really need is a good filter and a crazy powerful fan – that’s it!’

Founder of Airbon

There is no legislation to require ongoing clean air in the cabin and, because car manufacturers don’t make it easy for independent garages to find and change filters, most don’t offer it with a service.

‘Standard cabin filters don’t pick up fumes so a carbon filter should be compulsory’, Sharon says. ‘Until this happens, an Airbon box will help make the air cleaner for you and your family.’

Monitoring indoor air

In addition to voicing concerns about air quality inside cars and homes, Airbon will also be keeping an eye on air quality in offices as people return to work after lockdown.

This pandemic has highlighted that most airborne transmissions occur indoors. As people start to return to work, the focus will be on employers providing a safe indoor environment for workers. They will need to strike a balance between fresh air, thermal comfort, noise and outdoor pollution.

In the competitive business market, Airbon will extend its range to include commercial air purifiers that follow the same principles as The Sqair, ensuring price is not a barrier to clean air.

It will also offer portable air quality monitors for homes and cars, and fixed air quality monitors that allow schools and businesses to independently test how clean the air is.

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