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Standards BEHIND 

ANSI takes a look at some of the standards behind the scenes driving the advancement of innovative technologies and ingenious solutions for global challenges.

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How Dangerous Is Dirty Air? Study Reveals the Toll of Pollution on Human Life Expectancy


A breath of fresh air is priceless as air pollution is now the greatest external threat to human life expectancy on the planet. New data from Air Quality Life Index (AQLI) reveal that permanently reducing global fine inhalable particles (PM2.5) air pollution to meet the World Health Organization (WHO) guideline would add over two years to the average human life expectancy—equating to over 17 billion life years saved.

What’s more: findings from the study reveal that the impact of dirty air on life expectancy is comparable to smoking, more than three times more dangerous to human health than alcohol use and unsafe water, and more than five times more dangerous than transport injuries like car crashes.

The research emphasizes fine particulate air pollution—released from vehicle and industrial emissions, wildfires and more—remains the “greatest external threat to public health.”

Researchers compared two subgroups of the population that experienced prolonged exposure to different levels of particulate air pollution, so that they were able to plausibly isolate the effect of particulate air pollution from other factors that affect health. The study also references national ambient air quality standards that support air quality criteria.

Standards and guidance support the air cleaners that may reduce the health effects from some particles—small solid or liquid substances suspended in air, such as dust or light spray mists, and filtration systems.

These standards include ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 52.2, Method of Testing General Ventilation Air-Cleaning Devices for Removal Efficiency by Particle Size, which describes a method of laboratory testing to measure the performance of general ventilation air-cleaning devices. The American National Standard (ANS) is a national voluntary consensus standard developed under the auspices of ANSI member ASHRAE.

Another standard that supports cleaner air is ANSI/AHAM AC-1-2020, Method for Measuring Performance of Portable Household Electric Room Air Cleaners, a standard published by the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), which establishes a uniform, repeatable procedure or standard method for measuring specified product characteristics of household portable air cleaners. The standard methods provide a means to compare and evaluate different brands and models of household portable air cleaners regarding characteristics significant to product use.

A technical specification (TS) from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) ISO/TS 21220:2009, Particulate air filters for general ventilation - Determination of filtration performance, provides guidelines for testing the effectiveness of a given air filter. It applies to air filters made for removing particulate matter including mold spores, dust mites, and pollen that has been carried inside through windows or on clothing or shoes. ASHRAE serves as the administrator of the ANSI-accredited U.S. Technical Advisory Group (TAG) to ISO Technical Committee 142, Cleaning equipment for air and other gases.

Air cleaners and HVAC filters are designed to filter pollutants or contaminants out of the air that passes through them. Air cleaning and filtration can help reduce airborne contaminants, which also include particles containing viruses, as noted in detail by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

During the pandemic, numerous ANSI members published guidance related to air filtration systems in schools and for use as personal protection equipment.

And, more recently, UL Research Institutes released the guidance document, “Use of Do-It-Yourself Filtration Devices During Wildfires,” which features how to make DIY air cleaners that can be used to filter out smoke particulates during wildfires or other events creating particle pollution.

Access the Air Quality Life Index report for more details on the study findings.

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