With so many different air “purifiers” available for a vast range of prices, it may be difficult to decipher what is worthwhile and what is, well, worthless. It can be tempting to settle for an inexpensive air purifier, especially when it is promoted with jargon and promises.
When we settle for a cheap air “purifier,” what are we actually settling for?
When we settle for a cheap air “purifier,” what are we actually settling for? Depending on the type of technology implemented, an air purifier can tremendously improve air quality, make little or no difference in the air quality, or make the air quality worse.
It’s important to note that different filtration technologies are required for removing particles versus what is needed to filter gases and chemicals.
Cheap technologies for removing particles
There are several types of air cleaning technologies marketed to the public for removing particles from indoor air, including:
Synthetic air filters
Synthetic air filters use a charged media comprising of synthetic fibers with an electrical charge to increase the “stickiness” of the filter. Synthetic filter efficiency dramatically decreases as the filter becomes overloaded with particles. These fibers lose their charge over time, as particles “stick” to the filter and the filter becomes too “loaded.”
In fact, the efficiency dramatically decreases as the filter becomes “overloaded” with particles, and the stickiness is reduced.(1)
Electronic air purifiers
Electronic air purifiers use electrostatic attraction to trap particles. Ionizers generate ions that attach to airborne pollution particles, giving them a charge. The charge causes the particles to attach to nearby surfaces, such as a collecting plate in the device or to nearby walls or furniture. Even air purifiers that combine ionizers with filters or air cleaning “plates” can release thousands of charged particles into a room.(2)
Ion-generating air purifiers can increase the risk of particles being deposited into your lungs.
The U.S. EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) even warns consumers that ion-generating air purifiers can increase the risk of particles being deposited into your lungs!
Ion-generating machines can also produce the known lung irritant ozone as a byproduct.(3)
Similar to electronic air cleaners, ionizers (also called ion generators) use charged ions to clean air. However, where electronic air cleaners include collector plates, ionizers simply send charged ions into the air.
These ions make the air “sticky,” meaning the ions attach to airborne particles so they become charged. This charge causes the particles to combine with larger particles and become too heavy to remain airborne. These particles can stick to nearby surface areas such as walls and furniture – including your lungs.(4)