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The Air Up There

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[Image of Guadalupe MRT station]Next time you pass the Guadalupe MRT Station, look up. You will behold the largest air filter in the world

Motorists passing Guadalupe during rush hour probably don't know it but the air around one of the dirtiest MRT Stations along Edsa just got cleaner. The reason, the Guadalupe MRT Station has become the world's largest air filter.

Certainly good news for the over 30,000 vehicles that pass beneath the Guadalupe MRT each day.

A little over a year ago, the walls of the Guadalupe MRT were painted with an air-cleaning paint called KNOxOUT. Manufactured by paint giant Boysen, “KNOxOUT transforms an ordinary wall into an air purifier that helps protect people from the ill effects of air pollutants such as NOx,” says Johnson Ongking, VP of Pacific Paint (Boysen) Philippines.

NOx or nitrogen oxides are harmful vehicle emissions. Data released by Boysen show that Guadalupe MRT's NOx levels hit 200 micrograms per cubic meter at certain times during the day, which is five times the World Health Organization's recommended 40 micrograms per cubic meter.

”Every time we travel with a motor vehicle, we add things to the air that harm people,” Ongking points out. He says painting a wall with KNOxOUT is one way to reverse the process. “It’s like planting a tree to neutralize our carbon footprint. Now we can paint walls to neutralize our NOx footprint. Every wall is a potential air purifier.”

At the Guadalupe MRT, more than 6,200 square meters was painted with approximately 740 liters of Boysen KNOxOUT.

Irony of Technology

It is ironic that paint, long the bane of environmentalists and people concerned about respiratory health, now has the power to actually reverse air pollution.

By itself, nitrogen oxide is already a health hazard. But it is also a highly reactive gas that can combine with other gases to create something deadly. Exposed to sunlight, nitrogen oxide reacts with volatile organic compounds to form ground-level ozone—familiar to urbanites as the smog that hovers over our cities.

Even worse, nitrogen oxide reacts with other compounds as well to form small particulate matter. When inhaled, these particles and smog lead to respiratory problems, such as bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, and reduced lung function.

To create the air-cleaning paint, Boysen partnered with Cristal Global, which developed the technology behind ultrafine titanium dioxide (TiO2) that breaks down air pollutants into harmless substances.

The process used, photocatalysis, is environmentally safe. Photocatalysis only requires two natural components, light and humidity, for TiO2 to do its job. Since the air cleaning TiO2 is a mere catalyst in the reaction, it is never used up and continuously cleans the air.

Swedish environmental project management firm Conexor and the Manila Observatory oversaw the Guadalupe MRT paint test. Data analysis at Ateneo de Manila University was handled by the Philippine Institute for Pure and Applied Chemistry.

The study also involved a traffic count by the National Center for Transportation Studies and a weather mast to factor in meteorological variables.

The study revealed that the trial would rid the air of 1.3 metric tons of harmful vehicle emissions each year—that's roughly the emissions per square meter of 8.4 cars. Which certainly makes us all breathe a little easier.

Print ed: 02/10


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