I recently had to opportunity to talk to Paul Dawson about Dyson’s air purifier and what benefits it brings to our health.
Paul Dawson joined Dyson in 2000, after attaining a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Product Design and Manufacturing at Loughborough University.
In 2014, Paul was promoted as the Global Product Development Director in Dyson. Since then, he is responsible for the development of a portfolio of Environmental Control products from early concept definition through the detailed design stages, optimised for manufacturing and then into production.
Under Paul’s charge, Dyson has expanded into categories including air purification and air humidification, as well as Dyson’s first ever connected technology.
How serious do you think the issue of indoor air pollution is globally?
While people might think their home is a safe haven from pollutants, the indoor environment faces a set of unique challenges. On top of that, the importance of indoor air is magnified because the majority of people spend up to 90% of their time indoors. I’ve read that Kiwis spend between 75 to 90% of their time indoors underscoring the importance of creating a healthy living environment.
There are a plethora of sources that can lead to poor indoor air quality. For starters, there is outdoor/indoor pollution exchange, which can lead to a build-up of pollutants in the home, especially for those living in cities. In fact, it is believed that the smaller, potentially more harmful pollutants can penetrate homes more readily.
On top of that, there are many potentially hazardous compounds released from inside the home. Microbial pollution comes from hundreds of species of bacteria, fungi, and moulds growing indoors. My research team tell me that according to a 2015 BRANZ survey, almost half of New Zealand’s homes have mould which has associated health risks. Additionally, products in the home can emit chemicals including cleaning solvents, deodorants as well as building material, paints and new furnishings.
Is this something that affects most people?
Anyone with a pair of lungs! People think about the 1 litre of food they eat and make sure they drink 2 litres of water, yet less considered is the 10,000 litres of air we breathe every day.
The challenge with air pollution is that we’re dealing with the invisible. So we’ve equipped our machines with smart sensors that monitor the environment for pollutants. When harmful pollutants are detected, it automatically purifies the air, giving you peace of mind that the air in your home is clean.
What impact can indoor air pollution have on health and wellbeing?
Understanding of indoor air quality and its impact on health is still an emerging field of research. What is certain is that there is a strong scientific consensus that air pollution poses a significant health risk. The World Health Organisation estimates that more than nine out of ten people across the globe live in areas where its air quality guidelines levels are not met.
And that an estimated 7 million deaths are attributed to poor air quality, to put it in perspective breathing is more dangerous than smoking, poor diet, drinking alcohol and lack of exercise.
Some of the health risks of inhaling fine and ultrafine particles are well-established, such as asthma, lung cancer, and, most recently, heart disease. But a growing body of evidence suggests that exposure can also harm the brain, accelerating cognitive ageing, and may even increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
In what capacity did Dyson rely on research to develop the new purifier?
Dyson has been in the business of clean for over 25 years now. We started with vacuum cleaners but just over 2 years ago we launched our first purifier. With that, we’ve had to build up our expertise in understanding indoor air.
We have a team of in-house researchers, chemists and microbiologists who conduct filter, analysis, in home-trails and look at data from our connected purifiers. We then use this data to feed back into the product development process and engineer our machines accordingly.
And we’re working with external parties and individuals who are at the forefront of environmental science, like King’s College London or Tsinghua University in Beijing. Together, we work to understand what clean air really means. It’s a nascent field and we continue to focus on achieving even more efficient capture based on our findings.
Will Dyson be growing its air purification range over coming years?
We can’t give any clues to future products, but it doesn’t take a giant leap to imagine how machine intelligence and sensor technology could improve our lives in and outside the home. Machines which control themselves, interact with each other and predict your needs before you have to reach for an app.
Our latest range of purifiers which launched in New Zealand in July 2017 already do this in a basic way, sniffing the air and responding to filter out pollutants. But in future, this technology will be much more sophisticated. Sensor technology and vision systems, as well as machine learning and intelligence, are the enablers.
You can check out our review of Dyson’s air purifier here.