Are Air Purifiers Safe?

Are Air Purifiers Safe? Can it be harmful?

There is a lot of myth that an air purifier is unsafe and can do more harm than good. There is also a lot of "fake news" that it can make you cough, sick, and other unhealthy symptoms. Today, I'm going to bust all the myth and prove once and for all that air purifier is perfectly safe and good for your health. At the end of the post, I'm very sure whatever bad perception you have with an air cleaner will change.
Short answer
Air purifier ≠ Ozone generator
Long answer

Let me say it again, air purifier strives to provide us with good health rather than being harmful. It is safe from fire hazards with zero side effects as certified by UL, AHAM, and CARB. Unfortunately, its good name has been tainted by a "type" of air purifier that is NOT a real purifier in our opinion. Between HEPA air purifier, Odor eliminator, UVGI cleaner, Photocatalyst, Ionizer, Electrostatic Precipitators, and Ozone Generator, can you guess which one?


HEPA Air Purifier

Lets began with the most obvious choice that you should go for. HEPA air purifier relies on a mechanical filter to draw air in and trap 99.97% of particulate matters as small as 0.3 microns. This includes dust, pet dander, microbes like mold, spore, pollen, and bacteria. The in-flowing particles will remain trapped by the filter and only clean air will be release out. HEPA air purifier also supports multiple filtrations i.e. pre-filter, carbon filter, ionizer or UV-light. It is the all-in-one purification type that you could get in the market. The only downside is the filter replacement cost that occurs every year or so. Failing to replace the filters would result in decrease effectiveness or worse damage the devices.

UV Air Purifier

UV-light is a technology that we adore but as a standalone filtration, it lacks the punch and durability. Let’s start with what we like about UV air purifier. It is a 100% safe and proven technology that has been used in many household products as a sterilizer. UV-light is also very effective in killing microorganism like bacteria and viruses. The ultraviolet light kills the microbes DNA cell, unlike a filter that traps it inside a filter. There is zero chance of the allergens from multiplying or escaping.

The problem with UV-light as mention earlier is the effectiveness and durability. It is not very effective when dealing with other types of particles like dust, pet dander. The efficiency will drop on gradual use depending on the light lifespan. For the 2 reasons mentioned, it is recommended that UV-light is used in conjunction with a HEPA air purifier.

Ionizer/ Electrostatic Precipitators

First thing first, an ionizer is not an ozone generator even though some Ozonator do have this feature. It is basically a negative ion generator that disperses millions of negative ions into the air. Ions are naturally occurred particles that are harmless to our body. What ionizer would do is to electrostatic-ally charge oxygen atom into negative ions. The negative ions will then be released and attach to surrounding positive ions particles. the heavier, merged ions would be weighed down and fall to the ground or stuck on the wall. This effectively removes all the unwanted particles out of the air so we won’t breathe into. Electrostatic Precipitators is the same thing as ionizer but with extra collector plate. The additional plate is used to collect fallen particles from scattering all over the room.

There are 3 major setbacks using an ionizer. First, the contaminated particles would still be in the room and can be stir back up to the air. Second, the whole purification is slow and ineffective compared with HEPA air purifier. Finally, it will generate mild burned smell and increase the chances of static shock.

Ozone Generator: The Reason Why Air Purifier is Getting The Bad Rap

It’s all because of one trouble maker that is giving air purifier the bad name and is call Ozone generator. It is NOT an air purifier despite the manufacturer is pushing the other way around. What those sneaky manufacturers will do is to hide the word “ozone” from its packaging or brochure. Instead, they replace it with popular words like “HEPA”, “Ionizer”, and of course “air purifier” to mislead the consumer. When consumer falls for the marketing gimmick and purchases one of this death trap, they are opening themselves to the toxic gas. Worst still, anyone staying in the same roof would be slowly poisoned by the silent killer.

Why Is Ozone Harmful?

Ozone (O2) is an unstable and reactive molecule made of 3 oxygen atoms. The third oxygen atom can detach and re-attach to other substances molecule to restore its diatomic state. This resulted in alternation to a substances chemical composition that can be unstable and dangerous to our body.

So What Air Purifier Is Safe And Works?

All air purifiers are safe except for ozone generator. Ozone is bad for our health as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) stated so. Even small concentration (0.08 parts per million) of Ozone can lead to cough, throat irritation, and breathing difficulty. Inhaling to high concentration can cause chest pain and damage lung tissue cells. For people with an impaired immune system or asthma, long exposure to ozone may aggravate the diseases. Ozone can also deteriorate rubber and plastic even at a low concentration level of 0.35 parts per million. The deterioration of the household objects will release toxic gases that are extremely harmful to our health.

In short, get a HEPA air purifier as it is proven to be safe, effective, and more importantly, does not produce ozone! There are many big brands out there that would fit the bill but do consider the following options instead.

  • Enough airflow performance (200 cfm minimum) and coverage for a room.
  • Decent True HEPA filter NOT HEPA-type.
  • Additional filtration support such as carbon filter or UV-light.
  • Autonomous purifying for zero fuss operation and better energy management.
  • Noise level or sleep mode if is for bedroom use.
  • A price point that you are comfortable with.

How much should you pay for a HEPA air purifier? That depends but $200-500 is an acceptable range in our book. If you want a more powerful unit obviously you will have to pay more. Rather than pointing you straight to the most expensive unit, you will have to decide base on the condition. If a household member has asthma, children or pets, a higher spec air purifier would make more sense. You can find out more details on our latest best HEPA air purifier list here.

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