Aerosols: More than a spray

Each month we publish a newsletter titled IAQ Website of the Month.  The excerpt below was originally published in the January 2013 newsletter. 

When most people hear the word “aerosol” they immediately think of spray paint, hairspray or some other pressurized spray product.  For our purposes, we should take a much broader view of the term.  Aerosols are properly defined as a “system of liquid or solid particles suspended in a gas- usually air” (Vincent, 1995). Some people make a distinction between aerosols and particulate matter and define aerosols to include not just the particles, but also the gas in which they are suspended (Hinds, 1999).  You will find that many people in the field of practice just use the terms interchangeably.  I digress.

Why do indoor air quality professionals need to know about aerosols?  Many indoor contaminants are considered aerosols.  Some contaminants are biologically derived and called “bioaerosols” such as mold, bacteria, viruses and pollen.  Other aerosols may be generated indoors from various processes and activities such as photocopying and indoor smoking.

This month’s featured website delves into the science of aerosols, and includes many excellent animations.  The website is titled, “Aerosol Science & Engineering” and is sponsored by the University of Florida and Washington University in St. Louis.  It has training modules on several different aspects of aerosols.

Here are 4 training modules that I think you will enjoy:

  • Respiratory Deposition: Learn where different sized aerosols deposit in our airways (and the physics that governs their deposition)
  • Bioaerosols: Learn about bacteria, viruses and fungi, along with their health effects and common sampling methods
  • Optical Particle Counter: Learn how particle counting instruments actually work
  • Aerosol Instrumentation: Learn how many common sampling devices like spore traps collect aerosols

You may come across a few inaccuracies like this unrealistic HVAC system, but overall the site provides good information and helpful animations.

To visit the homepage for the January 2013 Website of the Month, visit: Aerosol Science & Engineering.

To subscribe to this newsletter click the following link: IAQ Website of the Month.  To take a class where you can learn more about this topic, visit: CIEC Course.

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