With so many air purifiers on the market today, choosing one may seem difficult. Most consumers who purchase air purifiers do not perform sufficient research prior to settling on a model. Unfortunately, because air purifiers are considered “health products,” making a mistake in your purchase can cost you money or even your health. Here are some important factors to look for when purchasing an air purifier:Can an Air Purifier HARM Your Health?
While you may think an air purifier is a harmless appliance, think again. Certain types of air purifiers utilize components which may be hazardous to your health, such as ionizers which emit small amounts of ozone, or even plastic parts which can off gas harmful VOCs and chemicals.The Ozone Controversy
Ozone is known for its ability to filter out UV light in the upper atmosphere, and many air purifier manufacturers claim that ozone air purifiers are safe because ozone found in the lower atmosphere can be used to reduce airborne pollutants. However, the EPA notes the following: "When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs. Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation." Therefore, many consumers may not be aware that ozone is a severe respiratory irritant. In actuality, ozone is a reactive oxidizing agent that reacts with chemicals and forms oxygen as a byproduct. While it is true that ozone can change the chemical structure of a pollutant and neutralize it, exposure to ozone has been shown to cause lung, nose, throat, and eye irritation. In fact, California has even recently signed a bill that will ban ozone air purifier sales in the state by 2009. If you are sensitive to ozone, be wary of air purifiers which utilize ionizers or ozone to clean the air.The Problem With Plastic
Materials such as plastics and Styrofoam are made from hundreds of different chemicals, and they all off gas. Plastics release toxic chemicals into the indoor environment; they are usually made from petro-chemicals and are compounds of VOCs. If air is blown through a plastic air purifier, these harmful chemicals are quickly released into a room. To prevent this chemical off gassing, look for air purifiers constructed of quality, all-metal housing.Air Purifiers & Parkinson's Disease?
Activated Carbon is commonly used in air purifiers to help adsorb odors, gases, and chemicals. However, certain types of activated carbon are coated with potassium permanganate to increase VOC adsorption. Although this is an effective way to remove VOCs, potassium permanganate also releases manganese, and even in low concentrations, exposure to manganese can cause a form of Parkinson’s disease called Manganism, as well as other neurological disorders. Check with an air purifier’s manufacturer to see if they use potassium permanganate in their carbon filters.Design Flaws
Unfortunately, poorly engineered air purifiers are also not uncommon. Many consumers may find themselves spending money on products with design flaws when a well-designed model can be had for a comparable price.How Effective is the HEPA Filter?
HEPA Filtration is the most common method of air purification employed by today’s popular air cleaners, but many air purifiers do not use it well. True HEPA filters must be able to remove 99.97% of particulates as small as 0.3 microns, and the only way to ensure this is through the use of warm-rolled HEPA filters. If the HEPA is not warmed prior to installation, it can crack and lose its effectiveness. If you are in the market for a HEPA air purifier, make sure that the filters are warm-rolled and pleated to increase filtration efficiency.Combination Filters Save Time But Waste Money
You may also find air purifiers that utilize combined HEPA and Activated Carbon Filters. While this may seem convenient, combination filters may actually cost you more money, as you are forced to change both filters at the same time. HEPA filters typically last 5 years, carbon filters should be changed every 2 years, and combination filters can add a significant amount to the overall cost of the unit.