A team of researchers from the Brown University School of Public Health, the Brown School of Engineering, and the Silent Spring Institute found that simple air filtration devices called Corsi-Rosenthal boxes are effective in reducing indoor air pollutants.
The study, which analyzed the effectiveness of proven Corsi Rosenthal boxes at the School of Public Health to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, is the first peer-reviewed study of the effectiveness of the boxes on indoor pollutants, according to the authors. .
According to lead author Joseph Brown, associate professor of epidemiology at Brown University, lowering indoor air concentrations of common chemicals known to pose a risk to human health is a way to improve the health of passengers.
“The results show that an inexpensive, easy-to-install air filter can protect against diseases caused not only by viruses but also by chemical pollutants,” Brown said. “This type of highly accessible public health intervention can enable community groups to take steps to improve air quality and in turn improve their own health.”
Corse-Rosenthal boxes or cubes can be made from materials found at hardware stores: four MERV-13 filters, duct tape, a 20-inch box fan, and a cardboard box. As part of a schoolwide project, the boxes were assembled by students and members of the campus community and installed in the School of Public Health as well as other buildings on the Brown University campus.
To evaluate the cubes’ effectiveness in removing chemicals from the air, Brown and his team compared the concentrations of semi-volatile organic compounds in the room before and during the box’s operation.
Results published in Environmental science and technology, showed that Corsi Rosenthal boxes significantly reduced concentrations of several PFAS and phthalates in 17 rooms in the School of Public Health during the period in which they were used (February to March 2022). PFAS, a type of synthetic chemical found in a range of products including detergents, textiles and wire insulation, fell 40% to 60%; Phthalates commonly found in building materials and personal care products have been reduced from 30% to 60%.
PFAS and phthalates have been linked to various health problems, including asthma, decreased response to vaccines, low birth weight, altered brain development in children, altered metabolism and some cancers, said Brown, who studies the effect of these chemicals on human health. They are also considered endocrine disrupting chemicals that may mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones. Moreover, PFAS has been associated with decreased vaccine response in children and may also increase the severity and susceptibility to COVID-19 in adults.
“Reducing levels of PFAS and phthalates is a wonderful co-benefit of the Corsi-Rosenthal funds,” said study co-author Robin Dodson, a research scientist at the Silent Spring Institute and expert on chemical exposures in the indoor environment. The boxes are accessible, easy to make, relatively inexpensive, and are currently being used on campuses and in homes across the country.”
“The Corsi-Rosenthal box was designed to be a simple, cost-effective tool to promote easy access and effective cleaning of the air during the COVID-19 pandemic; the fact that the boxes are also effective at filtering air pollutants is a remarkable discovery,” said Richard Corsi, one of the box’s inventors and dean of the University’s College of Engineering. California Davis. “I am pleased that researchers at Brown University and the Silent Spring Institute have identified a significant co-benefit of the boxes in terms of reducing exposure to two harmful classes of indoor pollutants: PFAS and phthalates.
That sentiment was echoed by Jim Rosenthal, Corsi collaborator and CEO of Air Relief Technologies, the company that makes the MERV-13 filters used in Corsi-Rosenthal Boxes.
“This interesting research showing that air filters not only reduce particulate matter that carries SARS-CoV-2, but also other indoor air pollutants, could be very important as we continue to work to create cleaner and safer indoor air,” Rosenthal said. .
The researchers also found that the Corsi-Rosenthal boxes increase sound levels by an average of 5 decibels during the day and 10 decibels at night, which can be considered distracting in certain settings, such as classrooms. However, Brown said, the health benefits of the box likely outweigh the sonic side effects.
“The box filters make some noise,” Brown said. “But you can build them quickly for about $100 apiece, using materials from the hardware store. Not only are they very efficient, but they’re also scalable.”
Brown study authors include Kate Mannes and Kurt Pennell of the School of Engineering, and Jamie Liu, Shaughnessy Burkes and Richa Gerola of the School of Public Health. This research was supported by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
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