Spas have become wellness hubs for a stressed-out nation. Increased awareness of climate change, dangerous indoor air quality and, of course, Covid-19 have brought respiratory wellness to the forefront of the wellness industry.
As spas add modalities such as salt therapy and oxygen treatments, savvy owners and operators are also paying attention to the quality of the air inside their buildings. As wellness practitioners, we adhere to Hippocrates’ principal, “First do no harm,” so we must be aware of the quality of the air inside our spas.
Think of it this way. If someone handed you a dirty glass of water, you wouldn’t drink it. But the air we breathe is invisible, and we breathe 2,000 gallons of it a day.
The harmful aspects of poor air quality are well documented. According to the Global Burden of Disease, the most comprehensive database of epidemiological trends worldwide, the top three risk factors for disease are smoking, air pollution and high blood pressure. People understand how smoking and high blood pressure impact health and well-being, but most don’t consider that air pollution is detrimental to health.
The Culprit: PM 2.5 Particulates
Fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) is an air pollutant that is two and one-half microns or less in width and is a concern for people’s health when levels in the air are high. PM 2.5 is everywhere across the globe, as large as the size of a hair or as fine as a virus or bacteria. Larger particles are filtered or blocked by our nose and mouth, but smaller ones will get into our upper respiratory system. The smaller they are, the deeper they go into our system. Below 2.5 is the sweet spot for the maximum size of particles the body will absorb into the lungs and bloodstream.
PM 2.5 not only directly impacts our respiratory system, contributing to chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and upper respiratory disease, but it also gets into our bloodstream and goes to our heart, making it a contributor to heart disease.
Making the Invisible Visible
The air quality inside your spa contributes to health or causes harm. Americans typically spend about 90% of their time inside,¹ and there are 225 times more pollutants indoors versus outdoors, according to Jie Zhao, Ph.D., executive vice president at Delos and lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania. Zhao has devoted his career to investigating how interactions between the built environment and humans impact health, comfort and productivity, as well as how human activity impacts a building’s sustainability and energy.
Leo Tonkin is chair of the Global Wellness Institute’s Respiratory Wellness Initiative and CEO of Salt Chamber. He is a respiratory health pioneer and the founding chairman of the Salt Therapy Association. Tonkin is a leading authority on the design and installation of salt therapy rooms and facilities.