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ISO 8573-1 standard: the cost of non-compliance

“How much does it cost to comply with air quality rules?” As the market leader for premium air treatment equipment, this is a question we get all the time. The answer, however, is not straightforward.

To start, in fact, it is the wrong question to ask. There are no laws, no rules and only very little guidelines (non-binding) on what air quality level should be defined for which application.

The good thing is that, at least, thanks to ISO8573, there is transparency on the definition of air quality levels for solid particles, humidity and total oil content (more correctly Volatile Organic Compounds).

What ISO8573 does not do, is define air quality levels per type of application. Defining that is the responsibility of the process owners. They are the only ones who know what compressed air is used for, and hence what risks it could introduce for the quality of the products they are producing.

And those risks could vary widely, depending on the process. Anyone who is involved in the topic will immediately understand that the longer the compressed air is in contact with the products and the more intimate that contact is, the higher the risk.


On top of that, ambient conditions will influence the required air quality, e.g. on humidity: the lower the ambient temperature, the higher the risk of condensation (with all possible adverse effects) and hence, higher requirements for dew point of the compressed air.

For that reason, a thorough risk analysis needs to be made. And once the risks have been defined, measures for mitigation and control established.

ISO 22000

In industry segments like Food & Beverage, there are Management System Standards, like ISO22000. Those standards will not define which compressed air quality level is needed. They stipulate that a certain method should be followed in order to assure the quality and safety of the products. This is commonly referred to as HACCP: Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points.

Hazard analysis is about assessing the risks. Critical Control Points about mitigating risks and monitoring and maintaining the required quality levels. In this way, quality and safety of the production process are assured.

The bigger the risk, the higher the consequential damage in case of a contamination. The process owner will define air quality requirements based on this.

Once the required air quality level has been established, the right choice of equipment can be made, both in the technology of the compressors and in the air treatment.

For very high risks with high consequential damage, the correct choice is avoiding risks altogether. For limited risks, there is the choice for more moderate mitigation of the risk.

A good example of this is the choice for oil free compressors for applications that do not tolerate presence of oil in any condition: liquid, aerosol or vapor. In oil free compressors, oil is never brought in contact with the compressed air, effectively excluding any contamination by oil from the compressors.

The remaining risk that is deemed acceptable for the process and products will define the price tag of the equipment, both compressors and air treatment.

But just imagine one single oil spill: the consequential damage is in many cases so disastrous that is justifies a higher investment cost many times over.

In other words, by not investing in high-quality air equipment, you are taking an unnecessary risk that can have devastating consequences for your company.

The many ways in which air treatment saves you money

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There are many ways in which proper compressed air treatment can save you a lot of money. Contamination could originate from the ambient air as well as being introduced during the compression process. If you use oil injected compressors, all the oil that is injected during compression will need to be taken out again to avoid oil contamination of the products. Again, the choice for oil free air compressors is the right one to fully exclude oil contamination from the compressors.

But also humidity and particles can cause harm to the compressed air system, application and products. Humidity can cause corrosion of air distribution pipes and downstream equipment and potential formation of colonies of bacteria. This could lead to serious and costly problems for the equipment and applications, like pneumatic tools, air brake systems, hospital respiration systems.

Choosing the correct air treatment equipment will hence be the most cost-efficient way to protect your investment, safeguard your production process and ensure the required uptime.

If that isn’t bad enough, things will get even worse when the air gets to its final destination: Your end products.

There is a reason why certain industries, such as the food and beverage sector or the pharmaceutical industry, subject themselves to very high air quality requirements.  If contaminated, their products can do serious harm to consumers. 

Whether that is oil in food or bacteria in prescription medication, the outcome could be devastating.

If you detect the contamination in time, the damage may be limited to “only” destroying the affected products.

If not, then your customers may fall ill – or worse – as a result of the improper air treatment. This could quickly cause the consequences, as well as your costs, to spiral out of control.

Consequences could present themselves in the form of:

·         damage and reduced lifetime or service intervals of downstream equipment

·         production stops costing handful of money per hour

·         scrapping of a production batch that is in progress

·         cleaning cost of any part of the production process that was in contact with the contamination

·         potential recalls of products further downstream in the logistic chain

·         potential liability towards customers

·         damage of reputation for year and years, potentially even bankruptcy of the company due to this

The potential problems and expenses arising from poorly treated compressed air can dwarf the cost of an investment in premium quality equipment, such as oil-free compressors, suitable dryer technology and filtration. 

In other words: It is always worth to not take air quality and proper air treatment seriously. 

With our long experience as compressor and air treatment equipment manufacturers, you can rely on our products, services and expertise to deliver the air quality class you require.

ISO 8573-1 2010 air quality classes table

ISO 8573-1 2010 air quality classes table