Spread of Covid-19 and air pollution: The connection and solutions, explained

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June 17, 2021 6:58 PM

This pandemic has made us realize the importance of understanding air pollutants and their adverse effects which can lead to fatalities. One such pollutant SARS-COV-2 has caused us numerous hardships.

The Reno metropolitan area which falls in Northern Nevada reported more severe instances of wildfire smoke last year in comparison to neighbouring areas including San FranciscoThe Reno metropolitan area which falls in Northern Nevada reported more severe instances of wildfire smoke last year in comparison to neighbouring areas including San Francisco. (Representative image)

Air pollution is one of the key global health and environmental concerns and has been ranked among the top five global risk factors of mortality. Apart from poor AQI, air pollution also causes serious health ailments including pulmonary and cardiovascular issues. Air pollutants can be broadly categorized into 3 types according to their size and sources of emission- Suspended Particles, microbial (including the coronavirus) and indoor/outdoor gases. Indoor air can be more dangerous than outdoor air, if these air pollutants aren’t taken seriously. The whole world now truly understands the impact an air pollutant like a virus can have on our life. We need to come up with a long term comprehensive strategy to tackle such invisible enemies to safeguard and preserve our future. In an exclusive conversation with the Financial Express Online  Kartik Singhal, Founder O2 Cure & Director Zeco Aircon talked about the connection between Covid-19 and air pollution, its solution and more. Excerpts:

How far air pollution is responsible for the pandemic and tell us more on the impact of air pollution on Covid-19?

Like any other fights, if we need to defeat the enemy then we need to know them well, understand the basics of air pollutants in order to derive a solution or weapon against them. Air pollutants can be broadly categorized into 3 types according to their size and sources of emission- Suspended Particles, microbial and indoor/outdoor gases. Microbials including viruses like SARS-COV-2 have been the main pollutant responsible for the devastating pandemic. Besides the coronavirus, other dangerous pollutants like PM 2.5 can aggravate the impact of Covid-19 on the population. Unfortunately, microbes including coronavirus were not considered air pollutants in general discussion. Moreover, India has been at the receiving end of these pollutants with increasing pollution.

The size of the coronavirus on an average is 0.125 microns (μm) in the aerosol form and is transferred from one person to another by a medium of cross infection. Transmission of microbes like coronavirus is facilitated through particulate matter (a major air pollutant) as it provides a medium for transmission. During sneezing or coughing, aerosol particles get attached to the suspended particles and easily travel up to 10 meters in the air infecting other persons in the indoor space. The greater the no. of particles, the higher is the no. of carriers.

Indoor air pollution is also one of the chief causes of the increasing no. of Covid-19 cases. In areas with less or no ventilation, the houses are not built looking into the importance of ventilation or IAQ. Therefore, the impact in indoor spaces is even worse.

Other neglected indoor air pollutants are VOCs, CO2, SO2, etc. Further, all these neglected pollutants increase the carbon footprints of a country which makes it more vulnerable to microbial disease. The top 10 countries with a high carbon footprint have been listed below:

Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

A carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases (including carbon dioxide and methane) that are generated by our actions. The average carbon footprint for a person in the United States is 16 tons, one of the highest rates in the world.

What do you think can be done to improve the current pandemic situation?

Vaccination still remains the best tool against the pandemic. The pace of vaccine administration has been progressing at a fair speed. It is expected that in the next 12-18 months, enough vaccines will be administered to develop herd immunity for the entire population. Besides vaccination, we ought to take other measures like boosting health infrastructure, adopting preventive solutions like an active air purification system.

During the 2nd wave of the devastating pandemic, our medical infrastructure collapsed. It’s better we take a lesson and start working on it. More no. of beds for Covid-19 patients would be one way to start other than increasing the no. of ICU and the capacity of oxygen production. Ideally, the Govt. should take the initiative along with responsible participation from civil society groups, NGOs and citizens of the country. Development of robust health facilities is the way to go forward. Budget allocation for fighting the pandemic can be increased as per the changing requirement. Between March and November last year, the government of India announced three relief packages cumulatively worth INR 24.35 lakh Crore.  The percentage of allocation should be increased to prepare for future dangers.

Awareness campaign about why to wear masks, how the virus spreads is also necessary. Government agencies and WHO should take proactive measures than be reactive. Awareness campaigns and videos about the benefits of wearing the mask should be delivered to maximum persons across the world. Furthermore, we can learn from the patterns of the affected countries by identifying the possible underlying cause and come up with a relevant solution for prevention or learning from the mistakes of others.

This pandemic has made us realize the importance of understanding air pollutants and their adverse effects which can lead to fatalities. One such pollutant SARS-COV-2 has caused us numerous hardships. This has made us go deeper and introduce science as a tool to fight the pandemic.

Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5Kartik Singhal, Founder O2 Cure & Director Zeco Aircon

One such breakthrough technology developed and looked into by scientists is Active air purification technology of RGF, environmental Group, US, Photohydroionization (PHI). It can act as a preventive solution against the threat of the pandemic. The technology releases atmospheric hydrogen peroxide into the air as a result of photo catalytic oxidation. The action is similar to what the sun does in the morning. The hydrogen peroxide molecule neutralizes the microbial including the coronavirus in the air rendering it harmless and making the air clean and safe again for breathing.  – PHI-Cell™ (Patented by RGF) has been tested and proven by both Indian and American virology labs over SARS-CoV-2 for reduction by 99.97% from both the air as well as the surfaces. – The Technology has been tested on other deadly viruses like SARS-Cov-1, Swine Flu (H1N1), Norovirus, MERS-COV-1 and bird flu.  – Furthermore, it has been tested for cross-contamination by Kansas State University and Sandia National Laboratories where a real-life sneeze test was conducted through a sneeze stimulation machine, resulting in 99% neutralization of microbes at 3 feet. – The positive effect of PHI technology has also been tested on fatal diseases like Asthma, Pneumonia, COPD, TB, and Bronchitis which are proving to be the major reasons for death due to Covid-19.

What are the other health issues related to airborne disease and viruses?

There are many other health issues related to airborne disease and viruses besides the Covid-19. Airborne diseases and viruses can cause a range of respiratory ailments like Asthma, Pneumonia, TB, COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), Bronchitis, etc.

Effect on Pulmonary System-Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

The PM particle which acts as a medium of transmission can travel deep inside human lungs resulting in endothelial dysfunction. The fine particulate matter PM 2.5 is responsible for increasing oxidative stress within the vasculature, increasing inflammation and causing vascular dysfunction. All the hazards from air pollutants lead to chronic diseases, acute coronary syndrome, cardiovascular diseases, asthma, heart failure, thrombosis, etc.

Endothelial cells act as a barrier between the blood vessel and the tissues. The cells are selectively permeable for specific chemicals and white blood cells to move from blood to tissue and vice versa. The integral endothelial cell layer is responsible for maintaining a complex functional balance to prevent the inflammatory response. Prolong exposure to PM 2.5 causes deterioration of endothelial function, blood clotting and systemic inflammation. As per solid evidence a increase in the PM concentration is associated with reduced blood flow inside blood vessels.

Cross-contamination is another hazard of airborne viruses like SARS-COV-2. A sneeze or a cough allows for airborne transmission causing cross-infection. A sneeze (travels at a speed of 100MPH) or a cough allows the virus to easily travel through the air because of the initial thrust. The bigger particle might drop to the surface within 4 ft. but the smaller droplets with the virus will reach another person up to 70 ft with speed and PM particles as the medium.
Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

The sick building syndrome, one of the reasons for corporate absenteeism is the result of cross-contamination because of contact of an infected human with another human through air/surface as a medium.

Testing protocol conducted by Kansas State University used the concept of a sneeze simulation machine and sneeze chamber. It produced an outstanding result. A PHI double blind-test at three feet from the source achieved an average of 88% reduction of microbes. Although, it has not been a medically supervised test or protocol.  Nevertheless, the technology is effective in killing the microbes at source and provides some level of protection.

The same test with PHI technology at three feet from the source achieved an average of 99% reduction of microbes in other studies.

How do we ensure to keep the personal and professional environment clean and safe?

We can keep the personal and professional environment clean and safe in the following ways:

Ensure Cleanliness Around Your Space: The old adage “godliness lies in cleanliness” still holds true. Unclean environment is the breeding ground for a variety of pollutants resulting in all kind of miserable diseases. In the last few decades or so, there has been a sustained focus from government, civil agencies and citizens in alignment with the “SWACHH BHARAT ABHIYAAN” campaign. We need to maintain the momentum in order to keep our personal and professional environment clean and safe. Cover the dump yards if it cannot be cleaned daily, keep the rivers clean and adopt other cleanliness measure.

Proper Ventilation: It may sound cliché but an open area with good ventilation ensures that there is a continuous supply of fresh air inside the home and offices. For an office, the ideal ventilation rate should be 20 CFM/person. CFM stands for Cubic Feet Minute. Well-ventilated space ensures that air is not stale which can be a breeding ground for harmful pollutants including some deadly microbial. Constant recirculation of air makes sure that pollutants do not remain at the same place for a long time. Ventilation is allotted least importance while making a building/offices/ residences.

Cleanliness based on specific pollutants: Some of the common indoor pollutants are odors, VOCs (Volatile organic compounds), PM 2.5, bacteria, CO2 and microbial. In order to treat them the right technology should be employed to clean the specific pollutants:

  1. Passive air purification with HEPA filters: A HEPA filter with a good manufacturer name can clean the air of most of the pollutants. H-13 or MERV-15 rated HEPA filter is a good choice for cleaning the air of PM 2.5, PM 1, dander, pollen, bacteria, odor, virus, SARS-COV-2 and VOCs inside residential homes.

  2. Active air Purification: Active air purification using PHI cell technology can neutralize all kinds of microbial including the coronavirus in the air. For microbial, active air purification is the correct choice as it is not limited to trapping of the microbes. To remove pollutants of all kinds from the office, ideal combination is MERV-13 HEPA filters or electronic air cleaner and PHI-Cell™ technology. Active Air Purification with PHI and REME cell technology can also eliminate VOCs and odor from indoor spaces.

Investment in Science & Technology: Adopting latest carbon emission free technologies would also go a long way in keeping the persona and professional environment clean and safe. Green, energy-efficient technology has caught the interest of Government, entrepreneurs and common people. We need to sustain the same momentum without putting any more pressure on nature and mother earth.

In the current scenario, we need a combination of active and passive purification technology in our entire personal and professional environment.How is O2Cure’s PHI technology different from our air purification offerings in the market?

PHI technology is an active air purification technology while other offerings in the market are based on passive air purification that used media filters to trap pollutants from the air. Traditional passive air purifiers with media filters are effective for PM 2.5 capable of removing particles at 0.3 microns with 99.97% efficiency. It may capture most penetrating particle size. On the other hand, Active air purification technology like PHI neutralizes the virus at the source in the air by altering the DNA/RNA of the microbial and rendering them inactive to allow for easy breathing.

The PHI-Cell produces atmospheric hydrogen peroxides molecules in the indoor spaces imitating the action of the sun in the early morning. Moreover, the active air purification technique of the PHI-Cell® neutralizes microbes and pathogens (responsible for a host of respiratory diseases) in the air at the source. The quantity of hydrogen peroxide released is within the allowed permissible limit. It is a patented technology by RGF.

– O2 Cure PHI-Cell™ has been tested and proven by both Indian (CCMB-CSIR) and American (Innovative Bio-analysis) virology labs over SARS-CoV-2 for reduction by 99.97% from both the air as well as the surfaces.
Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

– The Technology has been tested on other deadly viruses like SARS-Cov-1, Swine Flu (H1N1), Norovirus, MERS-COV-1 and bird flu.Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

– Furthermore, it has been tested for cross-contamination by Kansas State University and Sandia National Laboratories where a real-life sneeze test was conducted through a sneeze stimulation machine, resulting in 99% neutralization of microbes at 3 feet.  Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

– The positive effect of PHI technology has also been tested on fatal diseases like Asthma, Pneumonia, COPD, TB, and Bronchitis which are proving to be the major reasons for death due to Covid-19.
Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

– During the SARS scare a few years ago, the Chinese Government installed PHI™ Advanced Oxidation Cells in city buses and subways after determining it killed the deadly SARS-COV-1 virus.

– O2Cure has successfully installed more than 5 million PHI-Cell™ units across the world.

How O2 Cure is spreading awareness around air pollution and coronavirus safety precautionary measures?

Recognizing the growing customer demand and lack of awareness about air purification products & technologies, a separate air purification vertical was carved out of Zeco Aircon Ltd in the year 2020- O2Cure|take a deep breath.

From the very first day, our objective has been to educate the masses about the perils of air pollutants (both indoor and outdoor) and their deteriorating effect on human health. In the past year, we have been aggressively promoting the use of air purifiers as a safety measure against coronavirus.

In the digital domain, O2 cure has released many videos on various social media platforms like YOUTUBE, INSTAGRAM as well as other social media handles.  Through our video, we have made a conscious effort to explain different types of pollutants, the dangers of indoor air pollutants, the difference between active and passive air purification. We have also explained in details the basics of SARS-COV-2, how it spreads and why to take precautions.

To reach a larger audience by strengthening our brand we have also collaborated with MR SUNIEL SHETTY alongside doctors, scientists, scholars, consultants and other reputed international personnel.

Tell us more about the technology being inducted and offered in O2 Cure air purifiers to remains safe and away from airborne viruses? 

O2Cure Plug & Play, Hybrid & REME offers the Photohydroionization (PHI) technology patented by RGF. PHI or photo hydro ionisation is a photo catalytic oxidation, using the quad metallic surface as the catalyst exposed to a broad spectrum specially designed UV light. It creates an advanced oxidation process consisting of hydro peroxides, super oxide & hydroxide ions. All are friendly oxidisers that revert back to oxygen and hydrogen after the oxidation of the pollutant. These oxidisers kill the microbes throughout the indoor space at the source of contamination. The generated Hydrogen peroxide is in molecular/atmospheric nature, safe for humans unlike other unsafe oxidisers. The molecules of hydrogen peroxides in the air will kill viruses, bacteria, mold, fungus, chemical compounds, odor, VOCs.

The technology produces low level airborne hyprogen peroxide that is distributed through the air handler through the duct system and into the conditioned living space. Unlike passive air technology which needs pollutants to pass through the filter in order to capture the particle, the REME & PHI cell kill/neutralize all pollutants actively in the air.

PHI Cell has been tested over different mold, yeast, and other bacteria & viruses like H1N1, Norwalk, MRSA, Streptococcus Sp, Pseudomonas Sp, Listeria, Escherichia coli, Bacillus Globigii, Tuberculosis, legionella, Mold/Yeast, Chemical Compound, Odor, Formaldehyde, Swine Flu, Bird Flu, SARS Cov-1 & SARS Cov-2.

– PHI-Cell inactivates greater than 99.99% of SARS-COV-2 Virus in the air and on surfaces.

– Video explaining the PHI-Cell test report in a better way (youtube.com/watch?v=0C-i3u3jHGE&feature=youtu.be)

– PHI technology is effective in keeping the buses, corona/virus/cross infection free & how it can help India get back to work (youtube.com/watch?v=SfYrQLZKPxQ)

– UNITED safety used the active PHI technology to neutralize the corona virus in school buses.     (youtube.com/watch?v=OFo7ysYUQEk)

– PHI-Cell installed in buses or mass transit application and is successfully able to neutralize the virus in the air (youtube.com/watch?v=d6Rv7HXFWkc)

What is O2 Cure doing in this direction and tell us more about your activities and initiatives for betterment of people?

O2Cure has been collaborating with the best minds in the industry to develop a plan B for fighting outdoor air pollutants. We have been a strong advocate of green energy and all our buildings are duly equipped with solar panels resulting in considerable energy savings. As a leading manufacturer in the central HVAC segment, Zeco is present on all the influential international platforms for air conditioning and air pollutions.

We firmly believe in the idea of inclusive growth. To serve society better and reach out to the unprivileged one, Zeco Aircon has have adopted 12 government girls’ schools and a village in Haryana Through our trust, Lala Vidhi Chand Charitable trust. We are also running 4 Vocational Institute, organizing blood donation camp, eye check-up camp, actively donated to the PM cares fund during the Covid-19. In the future, we are looking to conduct a mass awareness program in remote villages about the perils of air pollution and the ways to avoid it.

We have always been a research-oriented company. Innovation is the ethos of our organization. We truly believe that technology is the game-changer and helps to better serve people. Our organization invests a good part of the profit on research & development.

Where all O2Cure has installed their air purifiers which create corona safe zones for the working employees and people of those organizations and companies?

O2Cure PHI-Cell™ technology has been tested by the third party of some of the esteemed clients for its effectiveness. After satisfied with its performance, consistency and safety for its employees, the ITC group installed our air purifiers across India. Globally, there have been more than 5 million installations of the PHI technology. Similar stories of our successful endeavor could be seen at Lilavati Hospital, PVR Cinemas, Amazon, Hotstar, Larsen & Turbo, Google, Ernst & Young, Facebook, Hero Motocorp, Airtel, MakeMyTrip and others.

What message would you like to share or convey to the people to save the environment and keep it clean.

Be pro-active than reactive. We need to be aware and mindful of our day-to-day activities harming the environment. For the near future, this is the only planet we have. Its conservation and health are our responsibility. Moreover, we need a long-term vision to meet global sustainability goals and to maintain ecological imbalance.
Covid-19, Air Pollution, AQI, Kartik Singhal, O2 Cure , Zeco Aircon, SARS-COV-2, carbon footprint, phi, PM 2.5

Indoor and outdoor air pollution together accounted for 4.9 million deaths in the year 2017. Pollution is the fourth largest cause of fatalities after high blood pressure, smoking and high blood sugar.

The United Nation “clean air initiative” aims to call upon national and subnational governments to ensure air quality that is safe for its citizens and to align climate change and air pollution policies by 2030.

Worried with the alarming level of air pollution, the Indian Government released much needed National Clean Air Program (NCAP) in January 2019 to control, prevent and reduce unhealthy air pollution.  The NCAP aims to expand the national air quality monitoring network, build capacity for air pollution management, and strengthen public awareness about the dangers of air pollution. It is a time-bound, national strategy to bring down levels of deadly particle air pollution (PM 2.5 and PM 10) by 20-30% by 2024 (compared to 2017 levels). Initially launched as a five-year action plan, the NCAP may be further extended after a mid-term review of the outcomes.

Some of the non-governmental organizations working to improve the situation are Catch Foundation, Paryavaran Mitra, Green leaf NGO, Nepra Foundation, etc.

Indian start-ups have also been very active in the last few years to improve the environment. Some of the noteworthy ones are ZunRoof, TrulyMadly, The man Company, etc.

Invest in clean and green technology for optimum energy utilization. Going green will restore the intrinsic beauty of this planet by eliminating the carbon footprint per person.

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