The health risks of breathing in the dust and small particles flying through during a UAE sandstorm are well documented — and now, so too is the menace of indoor air pollution. Dust, mould and pet dander are just a few of its sources, and the UAE’s higher-than-average dependency on air conditioning could be exacerbating the damage being done to us. According to a study of 104 childcare centres in Singapore cited by the EPA-funded Indoor Air Quality Scientific Findings Resource Bank, air conditioning (relative to natural ventilation) was associated with a 20-40 per cent increase in cough and lower respiratory illnesses such as bronchiolitis, bronchitis and pneumonia. However, a number of companies are introducing products in this market to help tackle the issue.
One of these is Hitachi, which offers a range of air purifiers retailing at a broad range of price points, from Dh943 to Dh4,723. “The air purifier is not only seen as a solution to respiratory infections but also the ideal home solution for living healthy,” says Tomoaki Sato, Deputy General Manager at Hitachi Sales Middle East. “A good air purifier is often the ideal solution for in-home airborne contamination.”
Sato credits improving technology and lower base prices for helping take indoor air purifiers from niche to mainstream products. “We are seeing more customers buying an air purifier for not only health but also wellness reasons.” Sato points out humidification, filtration and odour elimination features alongside the increasing prevalence of high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters as features being integrated into air purifiers. “Now we see a trend towards Wi-Fi connectivity through apps for not only air purifiers but also other appliances, which they can control and monitor.”
Daniel Hagström, CEO of Blueair Cabin Air, a newly launched in-car air purifier, says connected products are a necessity today.“[Connectivity] has become the mainstream. It will be more of a system-based approach, both in homes and in cars.”
He sees clean air fitting into new smart ecosystems, where we already have the likes of Amazon’s Alexa. “The same trend is happening in automotive, where you have the smart car that connects to everything. At home in Sweden, I drive a Volvo. It’s a smart car — I can honk the horn, unlock the doors, turn on the lights, start the car with my smartphone… this is happening.” Indeed, Cabin Air has adopted a two-pronged business strategy: Selling in-car air purifiers while also working with automotive manufacturers to integrate purification systems into the body of the vehicle itself. Hagström predicts that all cars will have this technology built in over the next 10-15 years.
Is an in-car air purifier really necessary? Cabin Air representatives say air quality inside cars can be much worse than on the street, thanks to a combination of exhaust emissions from vehicles as well as particles from tyres and road wear products, which enter through ventilation and air-conditioning systems. Cabin Air can clean the inside of a mid-sized vehicle in five to six minutes.
Whether in cars or bedrooms, air purification tech has a similar audience. “The product is ideal for everyone, but mostly we see purchases by families with younger children with sensitivity to allergens or with respiratory afflictions such as asthma,” explains Sato. While Blueair has attempted to enter a new living space — and it is a living space for Hagström, who says commuters spend an average ten hours a week in their cars here — Hitachi is going the customer convenience route. The Japanese brand’s Stainless Clean and Auto Self Clean features are geared at keeping things ticking along with ease for end users. “Maintenance is made easier with a pre-filter that is automatically cleaned before dust can accumulate,” says Sato.
Both Auto Self Clean and Stainless Clean are present in Hitachi’s top-end EPL110 model, which also humidifies and retails for Dh4,724. It covers up to 79sq m and has a washable filter. For Cabin Air, Hagström estimates a filter life of six months, though this depends on usage — “If it’s being used in a taxi, the filter may need to be changed after three months.” The filter costs an estimated 10-12 per cent of the device, which starts at about Dh643.