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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Odor Control: Cabin Air Filters Can Protect Drivers & Enhance Air Quality

Jan 15, 2015 By John Gaither | Source: Waste Advantage Magazine

Waste fleets that understand the effects of contaminants, emissions and foul odors may see an advantage in using newest filter options.

The process of collecting waste is a hard job that involves working on a vehicle that must operate within traffic and among a multitude of operating vehicles. Inherently, waste collection can be a strenuous job requiring repeated heavy physical activity, manual lifting and the handling of heavy discarded items.

With that hard work also comes some risk. The municipal solid-waste worker may be exposed to a number of pathogens (bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites), toxic substances (endotoxins and beta-glucans), chemicals that come from the waste and from its decomposition, as well as vehicle exhaust fumes. Any one of these dangerous contaminants could be present on any given day as waste collectors conduct their daily work.

The decay of organic waste and vehicle exhaust fumes may all contribute to poor air quality and potential respiratory problems from a simple cough to watery eyes or a headache. Contact with the contents of municipal trash and the constant exposure to vehicle emissions is an accepted hazard of the occupation, although it can be an especially high hurdle to overcome when the air contaminants that may be harmful cannot be distinguished through sight or smell.

The management for any waste operation knows that keeping workers safe is a great way to save money and produce a positive bottom line. Comfortable equipment that is operating efficiently when you need it not only keeps workers safe, but it can also keep the operation running smoothly by keeping more workers available to work their shifts.

Cabin Contaminants

When it comes to air quality and protecting the waste collector on the street or the bulldozer operator at a landfill site, one of the tools available is often never seen—the cabin air filter.

When you consider that for those air contaminants that have distinct odors, such as decomposing materials, emissions and discarded petroleum-based products, by the time the operator has recognized the hazard, it has already entered the cabin and been inhaled into the respiratory system. Cabin air filters are as much about health and protecting vehicle operators and drivers as they are about comfort and efficiency. A healthy driver is a comfortable driver, and a comfortable driver is going to be more efficient.

Because bad air is not always something you can smell or see, a cabin air filter can provide a barrier to some of the most basic air contaminants and irritants. As many as one-in-five Americans currently suffer from asthma or some type of allergy caused by airborne contaminants. These conditions can be magnified when traveling in the cabin of a vehicle that does not have proper air circulation or appropriate filtration.

Whether it is simply incoming fresh air, or air entering the cabin during the use of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system (HVAC), the environment inside the cabin of a heavy duty waste-management vehicle is subjected to assault from exhaust gases, pollen, bacteria, dirt, dust and soot. Any one of these contaminants may cause an allergic or adverse reaction with the driver.

In addition to the general air quality, a poorly ventilated cabin can also become covered in a fine layer of dust as the contaminants in the cabin settle on all of the interior surfaces, which allows the contaminants to remain in the cabin even longer.

Air Filtration

Delivering a barrier from the wind, road noise, extreme temperatures and harsh rays of the sun, the cabin of a vehicle may offer the false impression it is also shielding the driver from the hazards of the surrounding air quality. A cabin air filter will provide the operating cabin space of a vehicle with a filtering barrier, much like the barrier provided by heating and air conditioning filters in a home.

Typically located in the HVAC system of a vehicle, most cabin air filters are found at the outside air intake, where outside air goes through the filter before it comes into the cabin.

The increased awareness of allergy-sensitive people living in the U.S., which according to the Filter Manufacturers Council is estimated at more than 40 million, may be the single-biggest reason for the cabin air filter getting so much recent attention. When you look at the opportunity for a front line of defense for occupants of the cabin, a functioning standard cabin air filter can remove up to 98 percent of (5-100 micron) particles before anyone ever breathes them.

In the case of waste collectors, who are often outside their cabins, exposed to potential contaminants for extensive periods of time, the cabin may be their only opportunity to find some reasonable breathing protection.


The typical signs that the cabin air filter may have become saturated with contaminants or plugged with debris can be seen in the volume of airflow being delivered throughout a cab. Windows that easily fog up and are hard to defrost can often be a first sign of potential filter saturation. In addition to contaminated air, cabin air filters that are plugged and have become moist may create an environment that encourages the growth of additional mildew and odors.

No matter who manufactures a cabin air filter, every filter eventually needs to be changed. It is important to change a filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or according to the original manufacturer’s recommendations. The good thing is that replacing a heavy-duty cabin air filter is a job that does not require hours — but only a matter of minutes as most cabin air filters can be changed in 15 minutes or less.

Removing odors

Cabin odors are an accepted norm for the waste collection vehicle cab. For many years, there have been filtration options that add heavy scents, which mask the odors. These options do not remove the odor, but merely mask its scent.

The most recent innovation for cabin air filters focuses on a higher level of comfort and safety for the driver/operator. Cabin air filters now offer the option of carbon-treated media, which doesn’t just disguise the odor, but actually filters it out.

Taking odor control to another level, some manufacturers offer a variant of the carbon-treated filter media that also adds Arm & Hammer Baking Soda. Designed to remove sub-micron and micron-sized particles, including dust and pollen particles ranging in size from 5 to 100 microns, these cabin air filters minimize contaminants while also eliminating intense odors.

A Healthier and Safer Cab

The heavy-duty cabin air filter helps the occupants of the truck or equipment cab breathe cleaner air. Roadside air contains significant numbers of particulates, such as pollen, dust, diesel soot and smog, and these contaminants can be two-to-six times more concentrated inside the cabin space. This can affect the waster collector’s health, safety and overall ability to perform at a high level of efficiency.

Making the cabin air filter a priority for replacement on recommended intervals can be the first step to creating a healthier and safer waste collection cab. Installing cabin air filters that use carbon and odor-removal applications, such as Arm & Hammer Baking Soda, can add increased operator comfort to the list of benefits.

John Gaither is the Director of Heavy-Duty Engineering for Luber-finer® (Albion, IL) For more than 75 years Lube-finer has been providing filtration excellence for heavy-duty on-highway vehicles, vocational and off-road equipment. Recognized as a global brand leader of dependable heavy-duty filter product lines, Luber-finer combines product value with a commitment to reliable customer service. For more information, call (800) 851-3641 or visit