The Pros and Cons of Air Purifiers

There has been a lot of discussion about air purifiers and whether or not having one is a good idea. Air purifiers, also sometimes referred to air filters, have been marketed heavily as great devices to install in your home to “cleanse” your air.

However, as we all know, advertisements can be deceptive. This leaves the questions of how much of these claims are actually true and whether or not air purifiers have significant down sides as well. To help you make this distinction, here is some information about what air purifiers do, in what ways are they beneficial, and in what ways are they not beneficial.

First, you should know that an air purifier is a name for an electronic device you can run in your home that is marketed as having the ability to remove “contaminants” from the air. Kinds of air contaminants that air purifiers supposedly have the ability to remove include things like pollen, dust, pet dander, and cigarette smoke. These devices thus are suggested as being a great way to improve the air for people especially at risk of being affected by these irritants such as people with allergies, asthma, or other breathing problems.

Since their introduction, the market for air purifiers has expanded greatly to become a very profitable business. Only ten years ago, the market penetration for air purifiers was estimated to be at fourteen percent. That is an extreme level of success for any household appliance that may have been considered more of a novelty in earlier decades. Due to the fact that air purifiers have become a multi-hundred million dollar industry, it is obvious that the marketing of these appliances has been extremely successful. However, this does not answer the question of what actual benefits an air purifier can provide for a household.

In certain aspects, some air purifiers on the market do in fact live up to the advertising. The most successful of these air filters in terms of doing what they promise are also unfortunately some of the most expensive. These air purifiers are known as high energy particle air purifiers or simply HEPA purifiers for short.

Air contaminants are usually measured in terms of microns. HEPA purifiers have been tested and confirmed to have the ability to remove air contaminants larger than 0.3 microns at a success rate of 99.9 percent. Air contaminants that are very likely to be larger than 0.3 microns include things like asbestos, pet dander, pollen, cigarette smoke, and certain kinds of dust. The benefits here for people who are susceptible to being affected by these irritants are obvious.

HEPA purifiers must be installed in a ventilation system and require a lot of horse power to operate. This will result in extremely expensive installation and monthly electricity bills for most households. You may be left wondering about the kinds of benefits less expensive air purifiers can provide.

Fortunately, smaller air purifiers that can simply be plugged into an outlet also proved to be effective at removing irritants from the air. For example, a console sized air purifier that was placed in a room was shown to be effective at removing pollen and plant spores from the air in that room. Similar positive results were produced with purifiers designed to sit on table tops. They were, for example, successful at removing cigarette smoke from the air. These test results were, however, most positive when windows and doors in the room were closed.

So using an air purifier can have some strong benefits. The question remains, though, what exactly if any are the down sides to air purifiers. Unfortunately, there is one significant danger associated with air purifiers.

This danger presented by air purifiers comes from the fact that many of them work through a chemical reaction that creates ozone. This is the case for almost any air purifier that is described as an “ionic air purifier.”

Generally, people think of ozone as beneficial to humans. It is true that the ozone layer protects us from the sun’s harmful rays. However, that occurs high up in the atmosphere. People are not naturally exposed to ozone down on the surface. When ozone is emitted where people can breathe it, it can be very detrimental to a person’s health. This is especially the case for people who have breathing problems such as asthma and emphysema. The FDA has even warned against using these devices near children.

Due to the fact that the people with breathing problems most likely to buy air purifiers could be harmed by their emission of ozone, buying them for this purpose seems cruelly ironic. Even worse yet, while certain studies have shown that table top and console sized devices can successfully remove air irritants, other studies provided much less conclusive results regarding their overall effectiveness in substantially improving the air quality in someone’s home.

What one can draw from these contradicting points is that ionic air purifiers are probably far worse for your health than what commercials and advertisements would lead you to believe. Other air purifiers, such as HEPA purifiers, are probably a much safer bet. Unfortunately, the cost of installing and running these kinds of air filtration systems may be too expensive for most middle class households.

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