Friday, October 10, 2008

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Stuffy Air

SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden death of an otherwise healthy infant that can't be attributed to any other cause. These babies may have brain abnormalities that prevent them from gasping and waking when they don't get enough oxygen. SIDS remains the leading cause of death in infants ages 1 month to 1 year. Now a new study published in the October Issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, has looked at the issue of what is commonly known as ‘stuffy air. This study found that fan use was associated with a 72 percent lower risk of SIDS. Only 3 percent of the babies who died had a fan on in the room during their last sleep, the mothers reported. That compared to 12 percent of the babies who lived.

Stuffy air in aircraft passenger cabins is a common problem but its impacts on passenger and crew health, where coincidentally the lower cabin air pressure contributes to decreased blood oxygen content while flying versus normal on-the-ground levels, are not known.

Why is stuffy air common in passenger cabins? It is due to the crowding of many people in a small space, and the low air circulation rates being provided (circulation rates are one-sixth those in offices, for example). While turning on overhead gaspers or personal air outlets will improve the air circulation and help eliminate stuffiness, the high velocity gasper air stream will coincidently entrain air-borne germs emanating from nearby persons and bring them to the breathing zone. Furthering disease spread opportunities while flying is obviously not a good idea! It is particularly worrisome when you realize that your neighbours on the plane could be from another city or even another country and could well be expiring germs to which you and your children have not developed an immunity.

This gasper air stream pathogen-entrainment concern will be remedied by a new device soon to be available. With it, turning on your overhead gasper will be a way for improving the quality of the air surrounding you and eliminating ‘stuffyair. Known as the Personal Environment Airflow Controller or PEACE, this device will modify gasper air flows so as to filter and supply the air currently being entrained unfiltered by your gasper. With the PEACE device add-on, a gasper outlet will become your personal on-board air cleaner and air circulation device to turn on, regulate and direct. If you want to know more about the PEACE technology, please fill out the VEFT Aerospace Inquiry Form.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Do You Feel Ill a Few Days After Flying?

Do you often suffer a sore throat, a cold, headaches, fever or flu a few days after flying? If so, you are not alone. Various studies have identified an increased risk of respiratory symptoms among airline crew in passenger aircraft, as well as cases of in-flight transmission of infectious diseases, such as TB, among passengers sitting up to several rows away from the infection source.

Apparently, it is not the recirculation of air that causes the spread of disease in aircraft. Rather it is more likely the direct transmission of disease between persons even up to several rows apart, either through air transmission or mutual contacts. Why could this transmission be by the air route and why is it so noticeable after flying? There are several reasons:
  1. The diversity of sources and lack of immunity to the various pathogen exposures encountered in aircraft with the intermixing of persons from different population centers and continents is uniquely high for air travel in comparison with other venues such as theaters or classrooms where the occupants come from one geographic region.

  2. The filtered air supply rate to aircraft passengers is low (e.g.1/6th that provided to office workers).

  3. The volume of air surrounding passengers for buffering contaminant spread is relatively low (e.g. 1/30th that of the buffering zone for office workers and 1/10th that available in classrooms).

  4. The relative humidity on flights is lower than in most other environments (e.g. it is less than 20% on overseas flights versus 30-40% in buildings in winter and 50-60% in summer), and lower humidity has been shown to favor the airborne transmission of certain pathogens including influenza A virus.
A new type of ventilation device is being developed for use by aircraft passengers to address this disease spread concern and also the problem of gasper (personal air outlets) draftiness. Known as PEACE, this device will use the gasper pressurized air supply to entrain local air, filter and purify it and then send it right back to the occupant along with the original air supply. In this way this device will supply three to five times the current gasper air supply, improving user area thermal comfort and air circulation while removing pathogens and other airborne particulate matter. The device will be either built-in or portable. The portable version will be designed to clip on to the current gasper for use during flight, and to be easily removed to take along to your next flight.

I would be interested in your thoughts on the above so feel free to leave a comment. If you are interested in trying the PEACE device let me know by filling out the VEFT Aerospace Inquiry Form so that you can be informed when it is available.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Dr. Douglas Walkinshaw - Indoor Air Technologies

My professional background is as an engineer with a PH.D in Mechanical Engineering. I have worked in the private sector and for several federal government agencies. The government agencies include the Defence Research Board (design of the DDH280 destroyer and the Gentilly Nuclear Reactor, 1965-72), Public Works Canada (bridge and marine engineering technology development and building energy conservation, 1972-82), the National Research Council and Health Canada (indoor air quality problem solving, 1982-88).

For the past 20 years I have owned and operated a consulting and technology development firm, Indoor Air Technologies, specializing in indoor environment problem solving in buildings and aircraft. This firm has problem solving ventilation technologies licensed in the building and aircraft fields. One of these, the ECHO System (a basement radon gas and water entry prevention and mold exposure and odor mitigation system), was installed in 1992 in the Prince Edward Island energy conservation demonstration house.

I have conducted over 400 indoor air quality investigations in all sorts of indoor environments. In the course of this work, I have developed protocols for investigating systemic sources of a number of indoor air contaminants and for measuring ventilation and sorption parameters. I'll provide more information concerning my findings in future articles.

With the Indoor Air Technologies blog I intend to address indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and solutions in buildings and aircraft. I'll also be discussing our ECHO Air, VEFT, PEACE and ECHO Systems technologies. I invite you to drop by on a regular basis.

Dr. Douglas Walkinshaw