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When you think about compressed air distribution systems, you might think of dirty, grimy industrial plants with poor air quality. But did you know that there is actually a powerful connection between compressed air and health?

Sanitation and hygiene are essential elements of medical care, and the companies that manufacture pharmaceuticals and medical devices require oil-free compressed air to protect their products from harmful contaminants. To ensure the best quality air, medical manufacturers rely on the international air purity standards (ISO), which severely limit the amount of chemicals, oils, and other airborne particulate matter that can be present in the workplace or factory.

Energy audits conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reveal that over half of all compressed air distribution systems at small to medium sized industrial facilities have low-cost energy conservation opportunities. Some oil-lubricated compressors, however, can require costly maintenance. To avoid this issue, medical manufacturing facilities typically use oil-free compressors, which eliminate the need for oil filtration and oil treatment, ultimately extending the life cycle of the compressed air system and saving money.

To provide clean, dry air, every part of the compressed air distribution system must be running smoothly, from the air fittings, to the clamps, to the air compressor tubing. Too much moisture can compromise certain devices and medications, potentially creating serious risk to patients.

The need for clean air is also a factor when manufacturing food and other products included in the food industry, like packaging, bottling, and more. The Safe Quality Food (SQF) Institute has established clear parameters and methods for air purity testing, defining “purity” as “The absence of contaminants that could cause a food safety hazard.”

In terms of oil concentration, a facility is considered “Class One” if it contains less than 0.01 mg/m3. Just like in medical manufacturing, removing oil from the air is an essential function of the air compressor system. The SQF also states that air compressor systems used in the food manufacturing process must be monitored regularly.

You may not think of compressed air as a matter of “life or death,” but if medications, medical devices, foods, or the packaging that hold these products are not created in the purest and safest environment, they have the potential to do more harm than good.

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