Let’s talk air purifiers.

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Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re spending a lot more time indoors and some of us may wonder about the quality of the air we breathe. With that being said, let us move on to the topic at hand, I’m sure many of us have this lingering question in the back of our minds when we visit our wealthy relatives or friends at their house. The question being, do air purifiers really work? More specifically, how do they even work?

If that thought ever crossed your mind, then you’re in the right place.

According to a recent report from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can have up to five times the amount of pollutants. With that being said, air purifiers are designed to purify the air in a room by trapping allergens and recirculating filtered, clean air back into the room. The Environmental Protection Agency also adds that when used efficiently, air purifiers can help decrease many airborne pollutants such as dust, pet dander, pollen, and viruses.

A majority of air purifiers are usually made up of two parts: a fan that draws in air and one or more filters. As air flows over these filters, which are commonly made of paper, fibreglass fibres, or a mesh, pollutants and particles are captured and neutralised, and the clean air is recirculated into the living space.

Most contaminating particles are effectively filtered out, but some are most likely to linger on soft and hard surfaces such as furniture or walls. The type of air purifier and filter employed determines which airborne particles are removed from the air. Most filters capture dust mites and pollen, which are relatively large, coarse molecules measuring 5 microns or less.

So how do air purifiers, on the other hand, filter tiny particles? High-efficiency filters remove pollutants and allergens as small as 2.5 microns, around the size of animal dander, using a thick network of fibres and several layers of complicated weaves. Some air purifiers contain UV filters that use light to kill biological contaminants like mould and germs, while others with activated charcoal may remove gases like volatile organic compounds (VOC) and smoke particles.

Photo by Adam NieĊ›cioruk on Unsplash

Can air purifiers aid in the prevention of Covid-19?

In the early stages of when Covid-19 was running rampant across the globe, waves of customers flocked online in search of air purifiers in hopes to protect themselves and their families, many manufacturers during these times have claimed that their air purifiers could guard against COVID-19.

Photo by Kazi Mizan on Unsplash

So can you trust the words of manufacturers? The short answer would be, it depends.

COVID-19 particles are about 0.1 microns in size, or 1,000 times smaller than a millimetre and thinner than a strand of spider web silk, but they are usually attached to something considerably larger, such as a water droplet or aerosol. These droplets, like other viruses and bacteria in the air, can be eliminated by air purifiers.

As a result, air purifiers with HEPA filters should be able to filter out the new virus that causes COVID-19. As a result, such air purifiers may be able to aid in the reduction of virus transmission. It’s unclear whether this means these purifiers can prevent direct transmission, such as when an infected individual sneezes or blows out viral particles a few feet away. It takes time for the air purifier to trap these particles, and by the time the air is drawn into the purifier, it may have already made its way up your nose.

According to a research published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2021, their study found that HEPA air purifiers, which employ mechanical suction to move air across a high-efficiency filter, can reduce COVID-19 aerosol exposure indoors, such as in conference rooms. However, the researchers failed to account for variables such as open windows, room size, and air movement, all of which have an impact on how an air purifier performs in real-world situations.


Zack Yong is a content writer under Headliner by Newswav, a programme where content creators get to tell their unique stories through articles and at the same time monetize their content within the Newswav app.
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Zack Yong
Author: Zack Yong

Fulltime learning software engineering. Part time Freelance Writer.