Do air purifiers work for COVID-19? What about wildfire smoke?

Ry Crist / Tips Clear

COVID-19 continues to worry people around the world – especially in the US, where the death toll is nearing 200,000. At the same time, Forest fires devastate the west coast of the United States to displace hundreds of thousands. As we adjust to new realities, new questions constantly arise. What types of masks should we wear?? Is It Safe to Breathe the Air in the Bay Area?? Could air purifiers be a solution to any of these problems?

To answer that last question, we spoke to a number of air quality experts. We asked if air purifiers could solve or at least mitigate some of our air quality problems, if we speak Coronavirus Virions floating around our house in aerosol droplets, or devastating smoke and smog.

After this Test a dozen of the leading air purifiers on the marketWhen we spoke to specialists and read dozens of studies on the subject, we came to some answers.

If I want an air purifier, how do I find the right one?

For those of you who already want an air purifier and the most important recommendations, I have already written an in-depth article that addresses exactly this question. There are many air purifiers on the market and some of them are really impressively effective given their reasonable price.

For those who are still on the fence, read on.

Do Air Purifiers Really Work?

This is one of the most popular questions online and a reminder of why careful reading and skepticism are so useful tools when looking for products as a consumer. Air purifier developers are banned from promoting their devices as health products in the US for a number of reasons – mostly because their benefits are not straightforward. Instead of producing incredible health results, detergent advertisements tend to focus on the number of pollutants in the air and the effectiveness with which the devices are filtering them out.

Molecule, which sells some of the most aesthetic cleaners on the market, was recently forced by the National Advertising Review Board to pull back on a series of misleading claims it made since 2017.

David Priest / Tips Clear

To answer the question fundamentally, yes, air purifiers are generally effective at filtering particles out of the air – especially if they use a HEPA filter (more on this in the next section). But most of us already have some mechanism in place to effectively filter the air: the respiratory system. As the microbiologist and Vice President of Scientific Communication at the American Council on Science and Health, Dr. Alex Berezow, recently pointed out in a blog post: “In the tiny air sacs in your lungs (called alveoli) live immune cells known as macrophages” big eaters “devour bacteria, viruses, fungi and any other debris that gets into the lungs. “

In short, air purifiers work, but unless you live in a particularly polluted environment, or you or your children are immunocompromised, you probably don’t need one.

Do they protect against COVID, devastating smoke or other seasonal pollutants?

HEPA, which stands for Highly Efficient Particulate Air, is the standard that describes most of the air purifier filters currently sold in the United States. To meet the standard, a filter must remove 99.97% of the particles in the air that are 0.3 microns in size (an especially difficult size to filter). HEPA filters are usually more effective on particles larger and smaller than that size. Pollen, smoke particles and aerosol droplets that can transmit COVID can be filtered out of the air with such a filter.

A colleague’s mom recently started using the Coway air purifier and immediately noticed the improved air quality in her San Francisco home. Likewise, one of our editors tested the Dyson TP04 air purifier during the last Saharan dust cloud saw the air filter do its job admirably: “Gradually the app’s line graphs began to drop for each type of pollutant. After an hour or two, everything was back to green.”

But the story is a little more complicated when it comes to COVID. Just don’t rely on air purifiers to protect you from virus particles when living with a contagious person. When I was with Dr. On the phone, Richard Shaughnessy, director of Indoor Air Research University in Tulsa, said that the transmission of COVID is usually due to close contact with an infected person. When you’re sitting on a couch chatting with someone who is infected, an air purifier throughout the room won’t remove all of the harmful particles they exhale before they can reach you.

Another problem is the difference between virus particle capture and killing. While HEPA filters trap the particles, other technologies such as UV technology kill virions. Unfortunately, such technology often comes along its own risks.

The Coway air purifier is one of the best on the market. It contains ion filtration technology but has been certified by the California EPA as negligible or no ozone emitted over time.

David Priest / Tips Clear

I’ve heard of ozone from air purifiers. Should I be concerned?

Ozone is a type of pollutant that has historically been released from a narrow set of air purifiers. Before we dive into that, it is helpful to understand the basic types of air purifiers on the market now.

The three most popular filtration methods that air purifiers use to clean the air are as follows: HEPA devices remove particulates by directing air through a specially designed and standardized filter. Activated carbon filters remove odors and gaseous pollutants by passing air over “sorbent media” that trap them. and finally, ion cleaners produce ions that bind to particles.

Ionic cleaners work in different ways. Some simply cause ionized particles to adhere to surfaces around the home (thereby “removing” them from the air). Others have a plate that collects these ionized particles and must be cleaned frequently. The latter are the devices that have had problems generating ozone in the past. Fortunately, standards have risen in recent years, and third-party vendors are now testing ion air purifiers to ensure they are not releasing significant ozone into the home.

In general, I would avoid ionic air purifiers just because they aren’t the most effective for the price. If you really want one, make sure it has Underwriters Laboratories or California EPA certification that it doesn’t emit ozone.

Who Would Definitely Benefit From An Air Purifier?

The research here is a bit complicated. One of the clearest demographics to benefit from HEPA filter air purifiers is having children with asthma without going too far into the weeds. Dr. Elizabeth Matsui, Professor of Population Health and Pediatrics at Dell Medical School, University of Austin, has researched the use of air purifiers in the homes of asthmatic children and told me the value of air purifiers in such households.

Even a great air purifier like the Blueair 411 can’t do as much as cleaning and ventilating your home.

David Priest / Tips Clear

Air purifiers, she warned, are no substitute for what she calls “interfering with the proximal “. For example, a HEPA air filter can reduce particulate matter in the household of a smoker and a child with asthma by 25% to 50%. But that’s not the best solution: ideally, the person in the house should stop smoking completely. A clean and well-ventilated environment – and of course adequate medical care – is far more important than an expensive air filter.

And to be clear, while air purifiers can help relieve symptoms of asthma in children, Dr. Matsui: “There is no good evidence that we can change the environment in this way right now reduces prices of asthmawhether with air purifiers or otherwise. “In other words, air purifiers are helpful tools for children with asthma, but they do not reduce the likelihood that a child will develop asthma in the first place.

With so many air purifiers on the market, finding the right one can be overwhelming.

David Priest / Tips Clear

If you have any other questions that I haven’t answered above, ask them in the comments. I am happy to update the article with answers.

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