office with an air purifier

Home air purifiers are on the rise, partly as a response to concerns over air quality. While your home is designed to provide you shelter, many of us are spending much more time indoors than generations past. So, you may be exposed to more indoor particles and pollutants that can induce or aggravate lung-related diseases.
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air can be five times as polluted as outdoor air. Since indoor air is not circulated as much as the outside air, many airborne pollutants continue to thrive inside.
Air purifiers can refresh stale air, reducing the chances of health issues caused by indoor pollutants, which can trigger respiratory infections, neurological problems, or aggravate symptoms in asthma sufferers. Quality air purifiers eliminate several types of indoor air pollutants, keeping us healthy.

How air purifiers work

Air purifiers essentially work by sanitizing the air, which may include pollutants, allergens, and toxins. They’re the exact opposite of essential oil diffusers and humidifiers, which add particles to indoor air.

Air purifiers also act differently than filters. While filters only remove particles, purifiers can sanitize them, too.

The exact particles removed via an air purifier ultimately depend on the type you choose. Certain versions are made with filters to trap particles as air runs through them, while others may neutralize other particles in the air without filtering them first.

Benefits of an Air Purifier

Air purifiers with HEPA technology filters can remove 99.7 percent of the airborne particulate matter (PM) circulating in your home environment. Removing these pollutants can lead to several immediate and long-term health benefits such as better sleep quality and increased life expectancy.

Eliminates Harmful Chemicals from Indoor Environments

Closing the doors and windows of our house does not mean we can shut off external pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and carbon monoxide. These gases are commonly found in areas of high motor vehicle traffic and may get inside your homes.
Research from the National Library of Medicine
shows exposure to carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide PM increases the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Even if you don’t live in large cities with high vehicular traffic, your home atmosphere could still be polluted with toxins from several cleaning agents. Many regular household cleaners contain toxic chemicals such as ammonia, chlorine, and phthalates. Exposure to these chemicals in small quantities may be harmless, but routine exposure can lead to serious health issues like a tumor, cancer, cardiovascular, or neurological disorders.

Air purifiers with activated carbon can cleanse these chemical contaminants, avoiding the risk of several health problems. A highly porous form of carbon is used in this carbon filtering method to trap chemicals, recycling fresh air back to the room.

Neutralizes Unpleasant Odors

Some chemicals such as gasoline, benzene, and formaldehyde break down at room temperature causing an off-gassing odor. These chemicals, called Volatile organic compounds (VOCs), are commonly found in paints, aerosol sprays, upholstered furniture, or air fresheners. The odor from VOCs can cause nausea, breathlessness, and even affect your cognitive functions.

Mold

Like allergens, indoor mold particles can become especially dangerous for people with asthma and other lung conditions. Air purifiers may work to some degree, but filtration is far more effective in getting rid of mold in the air.

An air purifier with a HEPA filter would work best, along with reducing humidity levels in your home.

Types of Air Purifiers

While most air purifiers contain HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, some air purifiers include other types of filters such as activated carbon or UV light. Certain technologically advanced air purifiers include a combination of two or three types of filters. In this section, we discuss the different types of air purifiers and how they work:

HEPA Filters: Air purifiers with HEPA filters can capture pollutants as little as 0.3 microns in size. These tiny particles cannot even be seen by human eyes. The smallest particles visible to us are at least 50 or 60 microns in size.
Activated Carbon: Air purifiers with activated carbon filters effectively trap odors. They can’t capture viruses and bacteria like HEPA filters can.
Electrostatic Precipitators: Air purifiers with electrostatic precipitators use high voltage electrical energy, charging the particles passing through the filters. The dead pathogens keep accumulating on the electrostatic plates. To maintain the efficiency of the filter, these electrostatic plates need to be changed regularly increasing your maintenance cost. Electrostatic precipitators also release ozone, a reactive gas potentially damaging your lungs.
Ultraviolet Light Air Purifiers: These air purifiers use UV rays to kill the germs floating in the air. Some UV light air cleaners release ozone, so check before buying this type of purifier.
Ozone Generators: Air purifiers with ozone generators absorb odors. They are commonly used in hotels because the high levels of ozone released by these air purifiers make the room unsuitable for use, the next 24 hours. Exposure to even low levels of ozone can cause chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath. Prolonged exposure damages your lungs and aggravates respiratory problems.

Other Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality

To improve your indoor air quality, follow some other steps such as regular cleaning, growing indoor plants, and maintaining proper ventilation. The following steps can further improve your indoor air quality:

  • Vacuum clean the floor and carpets at least once a week to prevent allergen build-up.
  • Grow indoor plants. They act as natural air filters, diluting the carbon dioxide levels in the room.
  • Use dehumidifiers to avert mold and mildew growth.
  • When the air purifier is not in use, open windows for fresh air. If possible, allow cross-ventilation by opening windows at opposite ends of the room.
  • Turn on the exhaust fans in the kitchen to dissipate smoke after cooking. The exhaust fan also dries up ambient air in the bathroom and laundry room, otherwise, humidity can lead to bacteria and allergen growth.

The bottom line

Research shows that filtering the air can indeed help to remove harmful particles from indoor spaces, particularly allergens, smoke, and mold.

Still, air purifiers work best in conjunction with proper filtration and home cleaning techniques. An air purifier won’t work to increase indoor air quality alone, but it can certainly help.

If you have any underlying health issues, such as asthma and allergies, talk to your doctor about ways you can improve your indoor air quality to manage your symptoms. Never stop taking any medications without talking to your physician first.

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