Something in the air...

© N.T.Stobbs
© Maksym Gorpenyuk
Something in the air...

It is seldom appreciated today quite how dramatically the quality of life has changed over the past 60 years, due to the elimination of pollution.

Great Smog

A defining event in the move towards the cleaner air we enjoy today was without doubt the Great Smog of December 1952 in London.

For five days in which cold weather, combined with anti-cyclonic and windless conditions, allowed airborne pollutants to collect - mostly from the use of coal heating - to form a thick layer over the city.

Although it caused major disruptions due to the effect on visibility, it was not at the time thought to be a significant event, with London – already nicknamed ‘the Big Smoke’ – having experienced many so-called ‘pea soupers’ in the past.

Medical reports over the following weeks, however, estimated that 4,000 people had died prematurely and 100,000 more had fallen ill because of the smog’s effects on the human respiratory tract. More recent research suggests that the number of fatalities was considerably greater, at around 12,000 individuals.

In response, the British Parliament introduced the very first Clean Air Act in 1956 – initiating what became a wave of subsequent legislative measures in many countries.


The borderless nature of the atmosphere and the oceans, however, inevitably resulted in the identification of pollution on a planetary level. International catastrophes such as the wreck of the Amoco Cadiz oil tanker off the coast of Brittany in 1978 and the Bhopal disaster in 1984 also demonstrated the universality of such events and the scale on which efforts to address them were required worldwide.

In recent years, the issue of global warming has driven the issue of environmental protection higher up the agendas of governments and international organisations, but with over a billion cars now on the planet, and developing countries throughout the world accelerating their industrial output, the fight for clean air will continue to be on-going.

Hard work

Effective filtration will therefore continue to be a key component in keeping the planet’s atmosphere clean and in every filter system, it is the media which does all the hard work.

Filter media will be extensively showcased at INDEX – the leading nonwovens show which next takes place at Palexpo in Geneva, Switzerland, from April 4th-7th 2017.

Leading filter media manufacturers, such as Ahlstrom, are regular exhibitors at the event, which has a vast array of engineered materials for filtration, including a number of highly specialised microglass products designed specifically for use in areas where the purity of air is especially critical.

Many hospitals, for example, use its High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) and Ultra Low Penetration Air (ULPA) filters.

The company has also patented a three-layer filter technology called Trinitex which allows a middle layer to be adapted to a specific use or need. It may, for example, incorporate activated carbon to eliminate odours. Such filters are now widely used in power generation and in industrial and commercial buildings.

“We are also a global leader in supplying filters to the transport sector, where our wetlaid technology helps clean the air and cut emissions,” says Noora Blasi, Ahlstrom’s Filtration Marketing Manager. “Our products can be found in cabin air, air intake, oil and fuel filters, and we are working actively with all our customers to find ever better solutions to their needs.

“We are all aware of the problems of outdoor air pollution from vehicles and the health problems this can cause, but the quality of air indoors is just as important – whether that’s inside our houses and offices, or inside our vehicles.”
In fact, the United Sates Environmental Protection Agency now considers indoor air pollution to be one of the top five environmental dangers to the public, and the World Health Organization also lists air quality as one of its key health issues.

“Ahlstrom is ideally placed to make a positive difference in this area,” Ms Blasi adds. “Our products can help improve the quality of the air both inside and outside. Many of these are filters for heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, which make homes, offices and industrial buildings cleaner and healthier. Significantly, they also play a key role in reducing the energy needed to run this equipment.”


At the last INDEX™ event in 2014, Ahlstrom received an Innovation Award for its Flow2Save filter media for high efficiency air (HEA) filtration applications.


The patent-pending media is based on a gradient structure combining different advanced technologies and provides high filtration efficiency to improve indoor air quality, which is especially important in public buildings such as hospitals and schools, and to help alleviate Sick Building Syndrome (SBS).

SBS causes skin irritations, headache, and respiratory problems, and thought to be caused by indoor pollutants, microorganisms or inadequate ventilation.

“Flow2Save has significantly better pressure drop characteristics than other commercial HEA filtration media, meaning it is much easier for the ventilation system to push air through the filter,” says Ms Blasi. “This allows significant energy savings throughout the life time of the filter. As such, its sustainability credentials are compelling – cleaner indoor air quality, lower energy consumption and lower costs.”

Further recognising the importance of filtration for the nonwovens industry globally, EDANA has announced that next year’s edition of nonwovens filter media conference Filtrex Europe will be held in conjunction with INDEX™17 in Geneva.

“Like its previous editions, FILTREX™ 2017 will attract expert attendees from producers of all types of filter media, filter makers, raw material suppliers, test and research institutes, making this conference the only European filtration event of its kind in 2017,” said Joerg Sievert, chairman of EDANA’s Filtration Working Group and COO of Freudenberg Filtration Technologies. “It is an event not to be missed, and we are expecting high level speakers to confirm the leading status of the event for the whole filtration industry.”

The days of soot-grimed streets and the Great Smog may be long behind us, but the drive for cleaner air will continue into the foreseeable future – with a little help from nonwovens.


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