Car parks could become 'lungs of the city'

Sucking polluted air out of car parks can lead to significant reductions in the presence of deadly fine particles in the atmosphere, says a Dutch company. It has joined forces with university researchers to simulate how mobile air purification units could help car parks and municipal buildings act as ''lungs of the city''. Jim Drury reports.

Putting air purification systems in underground car parks could greatly reduce the release of deadly fine dust in surrounding areas. So says Dutch firm ENS technology, whose capture system turns fine dust in the air into harmless coarse dust that won't get in our lungs. SOUNDBITE (English) ROEL GIJSBERS, TECHNICAL MANAGER, ENS TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "Polluted air goes in, sucked by a fan. We force the air, a substantial amount of air, inside the cabinet where the air will be ionised. Once the air is ionised, also the particles in the air will get a load and .... will be forced to collect on the surface and on that collected surface fine dust will be transformed into coarse dust." In pilot tests in car parks below shopping malls, air quality improved greatly when ENS machines were placed there. Placing the units at busy road junctions had similar results. The firm says car parks and large buildings could be used as the 'lungs' of cities.

SOUNDBITE (English) LIA VAN DE VORLE, ENS TECHNOLOGY CEO, SAYING: "If you take the parkings (car parks) and big buildings, official buildings, as the lungs of the city, so they suck off the polluted air and blow out the clean air. That's the idea behind it." Computer simulations at Eindhoven University of Technology estimate that fine dust amounts could be halved if hundreds of units were placed in the city's car parks.

SOUNDBITE (English) BERT BLOCKEN, PROFESSOR OF BUILDING PHYSICS, EINDHOVEN UNIVERSITY OF TECHNOLOGY, SAYING: "Not only, of course, in the garages you get a large beneficial effect, so large reductions - 60, 70, 80 percent in particulate matter. But even outside, if you install sufficient amount you get in the surrounding streets a reduction by half of the concentrations of particulate matter, which is quite a lot and more than we expected." ENS says its system is superior to air filter systems and hopes to modify it to capture gases. Fine dust particles are invisible and enter our nose and mouth undetected. Once inside our bloodstream, they can lead to heart, brain and respiratory diseases.

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