Ali Al-Naher delves into the research behind the success of using an air filtration system to target poor air quality in practice.
It was the 18 March that saw the end of my fourth year at dental school. All clinics at the Manchester Dental Hospital had come to a halt and students were sent home.
Coming from a dental family, the suspension of all routine dental treatment a week later hit home. I witnessed the stresses of not being able to care for patients and the pressures of keeping a business afloat during what was a very uncertain time.
The most valuable action we could take was to learn from the technologically advanced countries that experienced peaks ahead of the UK.
South Korea was at the top of the list. So I looked into how the dental sector was adapting to the changes brought on by the virus. One of the main adaptations was the use of air filtration systems in surgeries.
This prompted my research into air filtration. Not only for use in dental surgeries but also in indoor environments in general.
Air quality is something we take for granted. We are not immediately aware of the negative effects that poor air quality has on our overall health.
Indoor pollutants carry allergens, which act as respiratory irritants. These can also impact our academic performance and, most relevantly, can carry viruses, bacteria and other pathogens (Annesi-Maesano et al, 2013; Bernstein et al, 2008; Dales et al, 2008).
One of the few studies conducted on the transmission of the coronavirus in dental clinics found that the transmission probability is more strongly driven by indoor air quality standards than respiratory protection from medical facemask use (Zemouri et al, 2020).
After establishing the validity of the issue at hand, I then started researching to see if an adequate solution was available.
There were air filtration units on the market for dentists. However, all of them had aspects that required improvements.
Knowing what was required, I contacted Tariq Tohala, a close friend who is heavily involved in the facility management sector. We shared the same concerns over the lack of standardisation for air quality and consequently acknowledged the void for a market-leading product.
Much of our lockdown was then spent working tirelessly to establish a viable solution to the issue at hand. Tariq also went on to make an introduction to a manufacturer that he had been working with for several years who shared our ethos.
Together, we founded The Clensr Range division of Well Building Facility Management. One of the UK’s most reputable facility management companies that focuses on occupant wellbeing in the built environment.
One of our main concerns with other products on the market was with the claims regarding their efficiency and testing. This was often under questionable conditions in private labs overseas.
Dentists are some of the most critical consumers. We therefore knew that if a product was brought to market, it would be subject to the highest, most reputable standards of testing.
The filtration technology used in The Clensr Range was efficiency tested by Public Health England at its Porton Down facility. The results demonstrate the capture of 99.998% of particles six times smaller in diameter than the coronavirus molecule.
Public Health England’s testing protocol is one of the most rigorous in the world. This was therefore a fantastic outcome.
A further benefit of The Clensr Range is that the units require no maintenance for 10 years.
The Clensr Range utilises a novel type of electrostatic filtration. Particles then charge as they pass through the unit and become attracted to a collector plate. This plate is constantly and automatically replenished and so never becomes saturated with particles. Its efficiency remains linear for 10 years.
Other air filtration devices on the market utilise variations/combinations of HEPA filters. These act like a sieve with minute openings. The filters therefore typically need replacing every two to three months. adding unnecessary cost and hassle.
Furthermore, our units require no installation, are portable, are aesthetic, quiet and have very high filtration rates. Enough to completely clear the air of contaminants in a given area multiple times, depending on the model chosen.
Helping dental practices
After tweaking the design and optimising the filtration rate, we were happy with the final product. So we began the process of taking it to market.
We focused on various forms of targeted advertising to appeal to the most urgent consumer base – those in the medical and dental sectors. We then trained a team to take calls and set up a platform through which customers could access and purchase the product in the easiest way possible. During which I had my end of year exams. Never have I been so grateful for open book testing!
As with every worthwhile experience, we encountered a range of challenges. Including initial delays in production due to the restrictions of the pandemic.
One of the luxuries of dealing with a UK manufacturer was that we overcame this very quickly. Thankfully, we have not had the same problem since. With lead times currently spanning from two to 10 days. This also cemented the importance of customer service and managing expectations, for which we have received incredible feedback from clients.
Three months after bringing the product to market, we are proud to say we have helped more than 60 dental practices adapt to the new rules and make their staff and patients feel safe. We have also gained distribution approval from the governments of two other countries. And we’re expanding into a range of other sectors.
Finally, it is important to remember that, as well as COVID-19 molecules, our air filtration devices also filter out many other contaminants. This includes other viruses, bacteria, pollen, tobacco smoke, soot, moulds, dust and many other harmful particles.
Air is the critical component for supporting and sustaining life. We therefore strongly believe that we can support a healthier lifestyle by emphasising the importance of and enhancing the standards of indoor air quality.
As well as guiding our clients through cleaner air during the pandemic, we aim to be here in the long run.
Well Building Facility Management is offering Dentistry Online readers a 5% discount on orders – simply quote ‘FMC5‘. For more information on The Clensr Range, visit www.wellfm.com/air-filtration-devices.
Annesi-Maesano I, Baiz N, Banerjee S, Rudnai P, Rive S (2013) Indoor Air Quality and Sources in Schools and Related Health Effects. Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B 16(8): 491-550
Bernstein J, Alexis N, Bacchus H, Bernstein I, Fritz P, Horner E, Li N, Mason S, Nel A, Oullette J, Reijula K, Reponen T, Seltzer J, Smith A, Tarlo S (2008) The health effects of nonindustrial indoor air pollution. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 121(3): 585-91
Dales R, Liu L, Wheeler A, Gilbert N (2008) Quality of indoor residential air and health. Canadian Medical Association Journal 179(2): 147-52
Zemouri C, Awad S, Volgenant C, Crielaard W, Laheij A, Soet J (2020) Modeling of the Transmission of Coronaviruses, Measles Virus, Influenza Virus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis, and Legionella pneumophila in Dental Clinics. Journal of Dental Research 99(10): 1192-8
This article first appeared in Dentistry magazine. You can read the latest issue here.