Using portable air cleaners, also known as air purifiers, in homes is gaining popularity in the time of pandemic. They could be suitable when additional ventilation for outdoor air is not possible without compromising indoor comfort or when outdoor air pollution is high, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Along with the use of best practices recommended by the Department of Health and World Health Organization, filtration could be part of a plan to protect people indoors.
Air cleaners assume more relevance as Jose-Luis Jimenez, a fellow of the American Association for Aerosol Research and the American Geophysical Union, together with 239 scientists, believed that a substantial share of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) cases occur from transmission through aerosols. In a Time article, Jimenez wrote that “superspreading events, where one person infects many, occur almost exclusively in indoor locations and are driving the pandemic.”
Portable air cleaners remove virus-laden aerosols and filter the air in a single room, not the entire house. They could be pricey, too. Beyond Covid-19, air purifiers in home settings offer limited benefit to the average consumer. According to microbiologist and Vice President of Scientific Communications at the American Council on Science and Health Alex Berezow, “Unless you have some sort of medical condition (asthma, allergies), I just don’t think an air purifier is worth the money.”
It is not a must-have item in my shopping list, but I needed one because family members are susceptible to asthma and allergies. It is the ideal birthday present for my husband. My niece researched for brands in the Philippines since we would merge our purchases. Brands include Blue Air, Intellipure, Dr. Zen, Air Dog, Imarflex, Air Moon, Air Free, Woodpecker, Daikin and Bionaire. Other brands I discovered are Sharp, Xiaomi and Luftonic.
Based on our research, prices varied from as low as 6,700 pesos for a 30 square meters area to 47,500 pesos for the same floor area. Narrowing down to Blue Air and Woodpecker, my niece decided on the Woodpecker Q3 Plasma Air Purifier for a 30-sqm room because she knew someone used this brand. What I like about Woodpecker is that it does not require costly high-efficiency particulate air filters. This non-consumable air purifier uses Twin Pole Active (TPA) ion technology to purify the air from fungi, bacteria, flu virus, pollen, mite, dust, smoke, airborne odor and other particles in the air without harmful chemicals. Cleaning of the air, per brochure information, covers the removal of 99.9 percent of smoke, PM2.5 and particles up to 14.6 nm/0.0146 microns. This also covers 99.9 percent removal of domestic formaldehyde and total volatile organic compounds. Traditional air purifier can only filter the bacteria, not killing them. After some time, they need to change the filter.
The Woodpecker plasma air purifier kills the virus through an electric field of up to tens of thousands of volts. No need to replace expensive filters. Washing the collector electrode is done after three to six months use. Airdog uses the same TPA ion technology.
Laboratory test data provided by the manufacturer for the “H3N2 influenza virus (similar in size to the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) shows a killing rate of more than 99.97 percent within an hour and the kill rate is over 99.9 percent for Staphylococus albicans.” Turning on the air purifier is now a nightly routine because my husband says he experiences fewer allergies. Other than laboratory data for reference, the Air Quality Index (AQI) shows on the LED display. When I first used the Woodpecker air purifier, the highest AQI in one room was 65, which went down to seven within an hour. AQI ranges from zero to 500 and is color coded with 50 and below, rated as excellent air quality. When dusting a room, the AQI rises to 50 or more but dissipates to a lower AQI after a few minutes.
Having an air purifier is not the solution to minimizing aerosols at home. My family continues to observe the minimum health standards. Buy an air purifier if family members suffer from asthma or allergies and it is within your budget.