Chemical (Volatile Organic Compound) Injury to the Lungs

Which Filtration Unit is Best for Persons with Chemical Injuries of the Respiratory Tract…How Should You Choose?

Breathe-Rite pharmacists receive many calls asking to help clarify the question “……which HEPA/Residential Filtration System is right for me?”

Many times these questions are easily answered over the phone. Generally we can direct individuals to our blog site, where comparisons are set side-by-side.

There are times, however, in which our patients have a more specific damage to the lung or an illness which requires special, individual attention.

In the past months we have been addressing these ‘chemical injuries’ with more frequency. These are occurrences where chemical or physical damage has been done to the lungs. This may occur when there has been exposure to asbestos, or Volatile Organic Compounds and in some cases associated particulates. We include the gases or fumes given off from resins, paints, epoxy’s, sealers, and the various ethers used in modern plastics and general manufacturing practices. Collectively they are known as VOC’s, and they require a specialized approach to air cleaning within this set of patients.

Here is an example of a typical call. The call was from a chemical injury victim in the mid-west. The caller was now on total disability from a work related injury. Over the years he had worked for a large industrial company involved in facilities maintenance. His twenty year employment history has exposed him to the ethers from hardening resins used in floor sealers/cleaners, and also asbestos. Working in an environment where safety enforcement regulations were lax, and protective gear was not mandatory provided a classic set of circumstances. Much of the damage “……happened over a longer period of time, so I didn’t realize the damage until a major incident occurred.”

As is many times the case, symptoms may come on slowly with age. The lungs become more compromised and fail to recover or recover more slowly. Then one significant incident of exposure to VOCs leave the victim unable to fully recover. This makes one of the features of chemical toxicity insidious. Both the acute and chronic features are devastating, and both are usually incapacitating.

Chemical materials inhaled in the workplace can lead to all the major lung diseases except vascular. These illnesses could include rhinitis, laryngitis, tracheitis, bronchitis, asthma, COPD, air flow limitation, cancer, fibrotic disease and granulomatous disease.

So, Which Filter Do I Need?

Most chemical injury victims know that they need a HEPA filter to minimize particulates. Some may see that there is also a benefit from impregnated carbon filters to capture the most common VOCs. Good examples of this filter type would be the IQ Air Health Pro Plus, or the Austin Air Healthmate Plus.

The fact is though, that there may be significant benefits to the more specialized VOC filters on the market. A number of our patients have disabilities in which specific chemicals (ethers) have been identified, OR, their home or city environment presents additional VOC exposure which worsen their symptoms.

These cases require slightly different solutions that will (1) Provide a more exact fix (2) Allow for future adjustment (3) Result in a substantial cost savings to both the insured and insurer.

We can reference the previously mentioned patient. A Health Pro Plus was requested. Further questioning though showed the need for more specific VOC control. Examples of a unit that allows this control are the GC & GCX by IQ Air.

The GC series comes with four cylindrical matched filter cartridges. All four cartridges provide HEPA filtration for particles. These four cartridges may be a mix of different cartridges with a more specific spectrums of coverage. These cartridges include:

• GCX VOC for general coverage plus Ozone.
• GCX MultiGas provides broad spectrum coverage, but adds additional cleaning ability for formaldehyde that may occur in homes as a by product of off gassing. It also provides broad spectrum filtration of both gaseous and inorganic chemicals and their derivatives.
• GCX Chemisorber Provides even more filtration specific to formaldehyde, hydrogen sulfide (from petroleum based products), sulfur dioxide and ozone.
• GCX AM provides heavily specialized protection for ammonia and its compounds, and ozone, along with general VOC coverage.

We begin by identifying the specific chemicals involved in the original injury, and then, thru a questionnaire discover what types of solvents causes the patients to react. With a little experimentation, the GCX filter configuration can be customized and we can arrive at a combination of filters to address very individual circumstances. It brings a prescriptive benefit to the most difficult of breathing problems.

Insurers will realize an immediate cost savings. There is usually less reliance on expensive breathing medications and treatments, generally fewer physician office visits and fewer hospital days.

Not all air quality problems are the same, and not all chronic breathing problems can be addressed the same.

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