Vacuum maker sees market expand post 9/11

Meg Villeneuve

Malvern, PA—Ever since the attacks on September 11th and the subsequent anthrax scare, Nilfisk-Advance America, Inc. reports that it has seen its vacuum business expand beyond pharmaceutical and semiconductor cleanrooms into cleaning anthrax-contaminated postal equipment.

The company says it didn't see the clean up of anthrax- contaminated postal equipment as a big stretch, given that its been working with the US Postal Service to remove asbestos and lead paint since the 1980s.

“Up until the anthrax scare, postal workers used to clean mail sorting equipment by blowing it with compressed air. With anthrax spores measuring two microns, this method was no longer an option,” says Kim Kanis, Nilfisk's NY regional district manager. This is when a new standard operating procedure to clean the equipment was put into effect.

Since 9/11, Nilfisk says it has sold 500 vacuums to buildings near ground zero.
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“The only effective way to clean the equipment is to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter,” says Kanis. Nilfisk's vacuums have a four-layer filter system: a two-ply bag, a main filter, a micro filter and a HEPA/ULPA exhaust system, which protects the clean area from being re-contaminated. “The HEPA/ULPA exhaust filters are commonly found on vacuums operating in cleanrooms,” Kanis adds.

To ensure that all the anthrax spores are contained, the vacuums are opened under negative pressure. Once open, the vacuum is turned on, which allows any remaining dust to get sucked through the filters into the bag, explains Bob Magdelain, president Nilfisk-America, Inc.

To date, Nilfisk has sold some 500 vacuums to those who own buildings near Ground Zero. “We found that end users were concerned about asbestos from the fires and collapsed buildings,” Kanis says. Its most recent purchase order came from a large real estate holder in Manhattan.

In the pharmaceutical cleanroom, Nilfisk's vacuums are used to collect any particles or chemical dust left after a tablet has been pressed. “When a tablet or capsule is formed there is going to be dust. That dust cannot be discarded it has to be collected,” says Magdelain.

“The FDA requires all controlled substances to be accounted for,” Magdelain says.

The vacuums suck-up all remaining dust within the processing area; the dust is then transferred into the vacuum's bag. The bag is paper but is lined with a poly bag. The poly liner is removed and all the substances are weighed and reconciled

Nilfisk admits its vacuums have been used to clean some exotic places such as the space shuttle, Chernobyl and most recently post office equipment tainted with anthrax spores and buildings located near Ground Zero.


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