Transcript: Space4U podcast, Joe Urso

Written by: Space Foundation Editorial Team

Hello. I am Carah Barbarick with the Space Foundation, and you’re listening to the Space4U podcast. Space4U is designed to tell the stories of the amazing people who make today’s space exploration possible. Today. We are joined by Joseph P. Urso, founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of ActivePure Technologies.


Joseph P. Urso purchased Electrolux North America in 1998 and transformed the company into what is now ActivePure Technologies, an industry leader in creating healthy indoor environments and providing reliable lifetime service. His natural entrepreneurial spirit led him to grow ActivePure Technologies into a multi-channel holding company that offers a broad range of products and services designed to create and maintain a healthy life beginning with clean indoor air and surfaces.


This remarkable technology initially used exclusively by NASA in outer space. Has been re-engineered for our use in a range of different units that serve both residential and commercial markets, including healthcare, education, and hospitality, the opportunity for active peer technology to positively affect people’s lives, inspires or so to make healthy indoor environments, even more accessible to people and businesses around the world.


Welcome to the podcast, Joe. Thank you, Carah. It’s a great pleasure to be here. Thanks so much. We are really excited to have you and talk with you today. So you and I have kind of talked before, but this last year has really brought a heightened awareness to our indoor air quality and its importance to our health.


Can you tell us a little bit more about what ActivePure is and what products you make? Sure can. And that is so true. Carah, well, simply put ActivePure Technologies is the most powerful surface and air purification technology ever discovered. We make systems that will fight viruses, bacteria, mold, and even volatile, organic compounds, everywhere, every nook and cranny, all the air and all the surfaces are technologies unique.


Because it works immediately real time. And we can actually say though, interestingly, Carah, with this pandemic for the first time in history, people are really looking for technologies that can help with viruses and bacteria. And in addition, it enhances the quality of life. We make a lot of products, but just as an example, if I may, you know, imagine that you own a small retail shop.


You’re following all of the CDC and FDA guidelines and protocols to do the best you can and spending all this time on disinfections and sprays and social distancing and spending hours every night, cleaning your shop, and you think you’ve done everything you can to protect your employees and your customers.


And then the next day someone comes into your place and unbeknownst, even probably to them and yourself, they’re carrying the virus. Right. So they’re breathing it out. All of a sudden your store is no longer clean, no longer safe. But imagine if the store owner had active here, because our technology works immediately, that person who came in the store might still be a carrier, but they wouldn’t be a spreader.


We work in real time and we can deliver peace of mind. And I actually think no one else can say that. Yeah. And then these days, peace of mind is, is key, such a drastic difference. I mean, we’re all terrified, you know, and there’s just so much uncertainty and so much disruption. That’s what it’s all about.


And to have the science behind it is so important because people want things they can trust. Right. So, yes. Yes. Well, let’s talk about that. Science, your science began in space. Can you tell us a little bit about that background? It’s an amazing story. How it’s evolved. Yes, it is exciting. And I think that’s why we’re so honored, but let me explain ActivePure Technology is as you know, Certified Space Technology.


And the reason is that it’s started in space. Believe it or not with Space Shuttle Columbia in 1995 and Kathy Thornton who is our chairman at this Space Foundation was actually part of some experiments that we did in space with the early, early stage of the technology. What happened then when it’s still happening is we’re trying to sort out, how can we grow plants and food in outer space and in other planets, how do, how do we ever have the chance to colonize or even truly explore for a period of time, other places in our solar system?


Not to mention our galaxy and without food we can’t. So they were actually trying to grow potatoes as an experiment on the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1995, I’ve learned so much about this. The growth of plants creates an off gas of ethylene, which is really a combination of hydrogen and carbon. Ethylene has a really positive effect now in nature.


The ethylene off gas just basically floats off the plant and goes up into the atmosphere on the space shuttle. Of course, there’s no place it to go. Well, ethylene is the plant’s way of helping it actually mature. It creates its own maturation kind of hormone. If you will, what was happening was the, they were growing these potatoes and they were growing so fast, but they were growing small because they’re growing too fast.


They they’re maturing too fast. And so they worked with in partnership with the University of Wisconsin at the center for space automation and robotics, which is still a preeminent NASA partner to sort out and discover this. And Dr. Mark Anderson, who was inducted into the Space Foundation of Hall of Fame with myself and our company, where we, you know, were recognized for the accomplishment of this technology is the gentleman, the doctor who sorted this out, working with NASA.


So we were able to bring this in and it’s, it’s really, really effective. And it’s evolved. Now, if I may, it may take a moment to talk about that evolution. Oh, yes, please. You started by taking ethylene out of the International Space Station that you’ve, you’ve definitely evolved into homes and businesses.


Exactly. And we bought into the early stage of this technology when it was a good technology. At that time, I knew it could make a difference. And it’s interesting just to digress for a moment. I had the privilege in the mid 1990s to attend a really a global White House conference sponsored by Vice President Gore.


And I was very fortunate to be invited the head of the CDC and the NIH and National Academy of Sciences and scientists from really all over at the highest levels of military leaders were there. We were there talking about a number of issues and I was more of a listener, I should say. I don’t want to state that, but I learned something.


Yeah. But it’s, it’s interesting Carah. And this is something to share with everybody. The one takeaway I had it stuck with me, then this is like mid-nineties, right? About the time Columbia was up in space. They said it’s not if, but when it’s not, if, but when we will have one or more pandemics that are viral and, or bacterial.


We just can’t anticipate. We can’t plan for these things are mutating they’re coming and they will come in our lifetime. And when they do, we just have to do the best we can. So when I saw this technology early stage of it, I thought, my gosh, this has a chance to make a difference. And we brought it in house.


We put our R&D guys on it, and I feel like we took it from a good technology to a great technology and we’re so fortunate. We are so fortunate that NASA, the University of Wisconsin, Dr. Anderson had the foresight to develop a technology of this type we’re generational leaps ahead of it. Now, yes.


Decades of research and development that have led to something amazing, uh, you know, tens of millions of dollars, lots of science, which I hope I get a chance to talk about later. It’s it’s a difference maker in it’s a little evolution, which we’ve all been blessed by. NASA technologies that started there and have been brought to the world.


And I’m just such a big fan of, and supporter of, of the work that you guys are doing and that they’re doing. So, yeah. Thank you. Yes. So tell me a little bit what you think the benefits are for personal use. What do you see as that doing for people? That’s really the heart of the matter and it, it, there are so many.


But it goes back to trust at the end of the day and ActivePure’s trusted because they’re an asset beginnings. In my opinion, you know, we’re in millions of homes that trust us across the world from healthcare to restaurants, to schools, to we really, we we’re we’re deployed just about everywhere. And we really believe that every place that has an indoor space with people in it, people are pets.


Okay. And there their issues with pets too, with this virus and other viruses really need to have our technology. We’re in 72 countries, we’ve run millions of homes and businesses. I think you may know that the trust issue is so important for people. All of us to know is this, does this really work? We’re very fortunate that we we’ve worked with the FDA literally for in the process of a seven-year program to have this technology cleared in one of our products as a class two medical device.


So it’s medical grade technology. We’re in the midst of doing a double-blind clinical study with Cleveland clinic. Certainly one of the most highly regarded institutions in the world to see how, and whether our technology can help reduce hospital acquired infections and not just from COVID, but from, you know, all the other things that happen.


And I mean, we’re trusted, you know, if I, if I may share with you is just a story that, that I think typifies what ActivePure means to people. It’s hard for me to even tell a story, but you know, when you hear it, you’ll know why, but we had the privilege to meet a beautiful family. Few months ago with a mom who started a nonprofit called heroes for children, which is a children’s cancer nonprofit.


She had tragically lost her three-year-old or first born to cancer years ago and created this foundation to help people pay for. The cost of cancer care when their kids get it. I mean, it’s, it’s, it probably, isn’t much more challenging in your life than that. And no, and no one’s prepared for it financially and certainly not emotionally.


And anyway, years later, she started this years ago and here we are now her youngest daughter at 12 was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and needed to travel from Dallas to Houston, to MD Anderson, which is a fantastic hospital. And. The story has a good ending, but it’s, it’s interesting. So, uh, I can just tell you, she, she said, you know, to give her peace of mind, we supplied her with our ActivePure products.


We learned about the issue and just, you know, sit here and you know, this, this should help. And I mean, she said literally, and this is a quote I’m actually reading it. Cause I didn’t want to misquote her right now with COVID 19 and the quickly approaching flu season, a major concern I have is how we’re going to keep Lily safe back to appointments.


Technology donation is giving me complete peace of mind that we’ve taken every measure available to provide a clean and safe environment for the family. I mean, they have to go to hotels and driving cars and go to the hospitals and peace of mind for me, especially in times like we’re living can’t be measured.


Fortunately, Lily’s been well-treated, it looks like she’s, she’s gonna she’s right now, she’s beating this thing. And this was the kind of thing that happens. We really have a mission. I feel, I feel like we have a mission to help people period, and especially right now. So it’s, it’s really a fun place to be in a way, because I have the blessing of being able to do good, you know, and uh, make a difference in the world.


So, sorry. I got a little emotional there. Oh no, I don’t. I don’t know how you can’t, you can’t buy peace of mind. That’s just something that is such a gift that you’re giving to so many people to just know, Oh, not only COVID virus, but all of the other things that you can be exposed to for someone who’s immuno compromised.


That’s just beautiful. Thank you. Thank you. See you. We have obviously units that can travel if they’re taking something with them to hotels and into hospital rooms. And, but you say you have other units that are larger, that are for hospitals. Well, yeah, that’s a great question. So we have. If I may, we have nearly a hundred products for virtually every configuration.


We have portables, small, big, we have personal units. You wear around your neck. We have mobile units. You can put in your car, smaller units. You can take on the airplane with you to your hotel. If you’re traveling globally, we have all kinds of products that go into your central heating and air conditioning systems.


If that’s experimental of course, a lot of businesses in the hospitals, do we have big units for big areas like ballrooms and convention centers. And we have elevator units. We even have a unit that goes in cars that we’ve designed and patented working in partnership with Mitsubishi years ago, they were dealing with off gases, from driving that were causing in some, some cities, you know, toxic fumes building up in the car.


So we got a lot of products and we have more in the pipeline coming. We have some really great personal products coming out. In the next couple of months that I think we’re really driving towards making this available to a lot more people. Yeah as we said before, a lot more people are just aware of the air quality and aware of what can be in an aerosol floating around them.


Oh yeah. And it’s a real risk today. Of course. Absolutely. Can you tell us any about those personal products or are they not ready for sharing yet? Oh no, I can share it. We tell you about them. We are working on a product right now that you can wear around your neck and take with you anywhere and everywhere.


It runs off of a very high-powered battery, very safe battery. And you would wear it around your neck. It would actually create fully treated, ActivePure air to ensure that the air you’re literally breathing will be virtually 100% pure and safe. So you’re unable to breathe in any other area, the way it’s designed.


And then we have a product that is a portable, very small, kind of the size of a large phone, almost that will also work on a battery. Or a plugin as you wish you could take it in your car or your truck or to your office and travel with it. And it would be great in a small room. And we also have another small product for small rooms, like a kid’s room or a bedroom or a hotel room or a small office cubicle.


It’s portable in the sense that it’ll, it’ll fit into your carry on, but it’s not portable in the sense that it has a little bit more firepower in terms of fan speed and this kind of thing to get you more coverage. So it’s, it’s, you know, Uh, it’s really designed that each product is designed for a specific use.


I’m really excited about these. I think. You know, I’m making note so I can get mine when it comes out. I will ensure that we keep up with you and make sure we get you. Get a good look at it. You’ll be one of our first adopters. I promise. There you go. I volunteer as tester. Okay. You’re at the top of the list.


Perfect. So, I mean, Joe, I feel like your passion is so evident for. Helping people and making sure that this gets not only to larger companies that are dealing with health issues all the time or concerns about the air, but also that individual. So I know one time you partnered with another one on of our space technology hall of fame, inductees, flora, kin to bring ActivePure into a school.


So I’d love to hear that story. Oh, I would love to tell you about that. And of course there’s even more, so it’s all about the fact that ActivePure’s affordable and it is, and will be available to everybody everywhere all the time as it should be. We had the privilege of getting to know the Rosenthal family.


So Ed and Betty and their kids, John and Eric were, we were inducted into the Space Foundation Hall of Fame together in 2017 and we just became really close friends. I just adore these folks. And what they’ve done by the way, just in case you don’t know is they came up with the optimal methodology to grow plants in space, Ed and his family designed amazing patented technology that is used all over the world now.


And in outer space to enhance plant growth in the fruits and vegetables that come off a plant. It’s just amazing. So Ed and I, we got to, he got to know each other. Well, his granddaughter is in school, you know, with hundreds of other kids down in Florida, any, any knew what our technology did. And he, we worked together.


He had worked to ensure that every kid in that school was protected with, uh, ActivePure Technology. And it was really fun. It’s always fun to work with Ed. And he’s an amazing guy. He partners with NASA and the Space Foundation, teaching people all over the world about what he does, but he wanted to create a safe environment in it, in it.


It’s nice. Cause it’s affordable and, and you know, likes to say that, you know, I want to, uh, create air that can be trusted and I trusted. So that’s yeah, that’s what happened there. Of course more stories, but that was a good one with that. And. They’re dear friends. So I probably folks listening to this broadcast know about Ed and his family and Florikan.


It’s. It’s an amazing technology. I just loved that you guys were inducted together. You know, the one who’s helping grow the plants and then the one who’s helping clean the air after they do those. So it’s the perfect combination for that. I, it, there were over 200 entrants that year that were nominated for the Hall of Fame.


And there are other, obviously other great companies have been inducted. And other great companies haven’t been talked to them maybe could be, or should be someday. It was kind of coincidentally decided that we were, you know, the most significant that year. And, uh, it was great time either. They’re just wonderful people.


Do you add other stories of people bringing back to peer into places? Is there anyone in particular that jumps out at you that you’d like to share? Yeah. Well, I mean, there, there are some really great stories and. You know, I put it in my kid’s school. I have an eight-year-old and I ensure, you know, there are over 500 teachers, staff and kids in the school.


And thankfully we’re at schools are open in Texas, but it’s optional whether you have to attend, we put it in there. And it’s just to be real, real specific here in this case, which is to be expected with five, almost 600 people there. They’ve had, uh, they’ve had more than a handful of folks come in and they’re doing amazing protocols to protect everybody.


Of course, the wearing the mask, the social distancing, washing the hands. And I mean, it’s an amazing institution. I just can’t say enough about the leadership there in the meantime, our is there and yes, there are carriers, but there have been no spreaders. The technology has worked and there’s been no breakout, you know?


All year, and they’ve been able to keep the school open. And if I may just compliment, you know, Dr. Joan Hill, who’s the head of the Lamplighter School in Dallas. It’s just a marvelous institution, largely because we’re leadership. She had the courage to keep the doors open and the lights on because of the technology.


And I can tell you that there people have peace of mind to get back to that again. And they know it works. Right. And they’re, there’s their restaurants. I mean, if you’ve been, and I don’t mean to hijack all this conversation, but I, you know, I grew up in the restaurant business. My family was in the restaurant business and who hasn’t waited tables or bus tables.


And, you know, we probably, all did right? Strangely and the kitchens are narrow. Right. There’s the one thing you don’t do is waste space in the kitchen. So you have. Lots of people crowded two, three feet from each other, slamming dishes and plates and cooking. And you know, a really, really highly regarded restaurant here in Dallas is a, Bearnaise probably the best, if not one of the best, certainly one of the best restaurants in the city.


And it’s a, it’s an amazing place. And they they’ve had several workers get the COVID and working in the kitchen. And we have our technology in there at a very high concentrations to help ensure that we’re dealing with the exposures because every configuration has to be customized for the audience. I mean, you know, doing a home is a lot easier than doing a kitchen, right.


So anyway, short of it is there there’s been. You know, exposure and carriers, but again, no spreading it. Al’s been able to keep his restaurant open. And I think people feel safe. He tells me his customers feel safe. He tells me is people feel safe. They have posters. And. Placards up that people can click into and QR code and learn more about the technology so they can get peace of mind because we all want to be safe.


You know, it’s, uh, it’s a scary time and there’s so much, we don’t know. But imagine that if you could just knock this out of the air, as it comes out of your mouth, it didn’t go anywhere. And if it isn’t going anywhere, you’re not going to get it. And strangely I, and I’m getting off target a little bit, but it’s important to know.


And I think people need understand the distinction that. You know, there’s other air purifiers, these HEPA filters and these ionizers and UV lights and all this stuff. And some of them are helpful, but none of them do what we do. And in many cases, the air flow, whether from a HEPA filter or from just your HVAC systems actually is spreading the disease because it’s blowing and sucking the virus from one place to another.


We don’t do that. We just go out in the air like little Pac-Man and basically gobble it up safely while you’re in the room. Again, cleared by the FDA for efficacy and safety in our, and our medical grade technology. Thank you. And I, you know, I keep hearing you use things like it gives people courage. It had helps them feel safe.


That gives them peace of mind. And I just think you can’t overlook that. It’s just so important right now for, for everything for going out to eat for going to school for. Going to work, you know, even going to the grocery store and, Oh my goodness. Yes. We feel like we can protect lives by creating safe, trusted air.


And, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to get back to life. Right. We can help business open and stay in business and get back to business. We can help schools open and keep the kids. Growing and educating and developing, you know, we can keep the public facilities a lot safer and I’m not, I’m not subbing in, it’s like an airbag in a seatbelt.


Right? If you had one, you ought to use it. Okay. It doesn’t mean, but you want to be protected in case somebody crashes into you. So it’s just like this. Why wouldn’t you use this? And we have a massage envy up in Northeast and the owner up there. He reopened on June 20th. They, they, they had closed everything down.


He said, Joe, listen, my number one focus was providing a safe and healthy place for every single employee and client. And they’ve now served over 12,000 clients since June 20th when they reopened. And he said, quote, active peer has allowed me to really stand out from the other franchises nationwide in, within this industry.


So they’ve been able to stay open 12,000 and people coming and going again, no spreading. So we have a technology here. That can make a huge difference. We’re working with the highest levels of government in business. And I think you’re going to see that that ActivePure will become a household name as this year unfolds.


Yes, I hope so. Just ‘cause I think again, it’ll just bring reassurance to opening things back up and making everything possible again. Yeah. And the science shows that it works, you know, nothing’s perfect. But to see the data is compelling. Is there any data that you think is palatable for the, the general masses or something you could share with us?


Oh, sure. I mean, without getting too, you know, arcane and scientific, um, we just recently did a test at biosafety level three and four lab here dedicated to CDC and military. Applications, because everybody’s worried at every level about what could happen if this isn’t contained or what’s coming next, which we all should be thinking about.


We did airborne testing on live the live virus. We did surface testing on the live virus and we basically destroyed it real time in the air with amazing efficacy virtually it was called below detectable limits, which means. We think we got it all. And we did it in three minutes. We didn’t test shorter than three minutes.


We’re going back now and testing it at a minute, uh, because we think it works faster than three minutes. And these are amazing FDA levels of concentrations that are, you know, the highest bar in the world. So the, the lab director was like, I can’t believe it. I’ve never seen it like this. And they they’re asking us to do some other testing with them now.


So the, the, the key to this is, is the science, right? NASA is a science-based, wonderful organization for us, the Space Foundation, we’re rooted in science. And so these test results give me peace of mind that I can guarantee results to people. I can’t promise you that somebody won’t get it, but I can promise you what we can do real time to reduce the exposure and the concentration and the load of a virus of bacteria or something else in your, in your air.


And on your surfaces. I mean, three minutes is just jaw dropping in my mind.


I hate to admit it, but I was surprised too. I was like, wow, high five to our engineers, you know? And our R&D department, you know, Andy Eide, he was inducted in the Hall of Fame with me. Genius guy, one of my senior executives here, he gets a lot of the credit and his team for helping us figure this out and create a, an advancement on that technology that started on the space shuttle, which frankly is, uh, is generations ahead.


Well, you’ve shared a little bit about, you know, your future projects. Let’s bring it back to space. Do you see ActivePure Technology playing a role in future missions to the Moon or to Mars? Wow. That is exciting. And I absolutely, too. I believe that it will be because we’ll be able to protect our space travelers and keep them safe and healthy while we explore, which is inevitable, this is going to happen.


Right. And they don’t get a second chance of there, there and there’s no reason to believe that something newer Starling couldn’t happen. So, yeah, I do. I think it will become ubiquitous. I think we’re going to see it everywhere. I think we’re going to see it cars and elevators. We have three governors offices and three state capitals that have it right now.


And, you know, hospitals yeah. All over the world, but certainly as well as we explore space, absolutely innovation is our key and we want to innovate to solve for every home and business to be able to have this technology. It’s just perfect. Well, I think that’s all we we have today. And is there anything that you wanted to share?


Did I miss anything? Oh gosh, no. Carah, you are right on. And I want to thank you for this opportunity to share our story with this wonderful audience. This has been wonderful. I thank you for having us do this. It is been my pleasure. For sure. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing all the stories and hearing the science and the amazing work really that you’re doing.


I think you’re changing the world one room at a time, and that concludes this episode of the Space Foundation Space4U podcast. You can subscribe to this podcast and leave us a review on Podbean, Apple Podcasts and on Google Play. Remember to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn, and of course our website, where you can also learn about the various ways to support the Space Foundation on all of these outlets and more it’s our goal to inspire, educate, connect, and advocate for the space community. Because at the Space Foundation, we will always have space for you.


Thanks for listening.

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Space4U Podcast: Joe Urso, Founder/CEO ActivePure Technologies