1. The history of air purifiers
  2. How does an air purifier work?
  3. Are air purifiers effective?
  4. How to use the air purifier correctly?
  5. Who is the air purifier for?

More than 6.5 million people worldwide die prematurely every year due to air pollution . It might seem that home interiors protect us from danger, but scientific research contradicts this thesis. It is not only smog that enters living rooms through open windows , but also allergens , mites , and even chemical compounds released from furniture or other elements of interior design pose a problem .

The history of air purifiers

The idea of ​​airborne pollutants troubled people as early as the 19th century. In 1823, the first masks were developed to protect firefighters from the toxic combustion products present in the smoke. Then respirators for miners equipped with a carbon filter were created. As the industrial revolution progressed, the need to extend protection to broader sections of society became apparent.
The direct reason for the creation of the first air-filtering device was the Manhattan Project, i.e. work on the atomic bomb. Participating scientists realized that radioactive particles floating in the environment can be a deadly threat to humans. In the mid-twentieth century, HEPA filters were created, which, although they do not offer protection against radioactive compounds, effectively block mustard gas or harmful chlorides. Over time, they began to be used for commercial air purification devices – the first patent in this field was issued in 1961.

How does an air purifier work?

The air purifier is an electric device consisting of a fan and filters. Powered by electricity, the fan sucks the air inside, making it pass through successive layers separating impurities like a sieve. It is then blown back into the room.

Different models of devices contain a different number and type of filters. Most often they are made of paper or carbon – some require regular replacement, others manual cleaning. Depending on the power, the device can suck in more or less air. The manufacturer always specifies what surface the purifier is intended for.

In addition to classic filters that catch mites, dust, soot or grass pollen , purifiers are additionally equipped with a UV option, which is supposed to kill pathogens present in the air. Other models use the phenomenon of ionization to attract negatively charged ions , especially house dust.

Particularly noteworthy is the HEPA filter mentioned above, whose name comes from the English abbreviation: High Efficiency Particulate Air, i.e. a high-efficiency particulate filter . It is made of several layers of mesh made of glass fibers with a width less than a human hair. The air squeezing through the gaps in the filter is cleaned by three different methods: blocking larger particles, capturing medium ones and diffusing the smallest ones.

HEPA filter. Source: Nor Gal/Shutterstock

Are air purifiers effective?

A report by the US Environmental Protection Agency suggests that indoor air may contain up to 5 times more pollutants than outdoor air. We are talking primarily about mold , pesticides , various types of allergens and toxins . Studies show that standard HEPA filters capture a minimum of 99.97% of impurities with a diameter of 0.3 microns. It is worth noting that these are the results obtained in laboratory conditions, which may differ from the real application.

According to research published in 2016 in the United States, air purifiers are very effective against wildfires . They not only stop soot particles that get into the interior, but also remove the unpleasant smell of smoke. In addition, HEPA filters are even believed to be able to eliminate at least some of the Covid virus cells dispersed in the air. According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the controlled conditions of the conference room (without opening the windows and ventilation), the filters significantly reduced the concentration of the virus in the air, significantly reducing the risk of infection.

In general, there is no doubt that air purifiers reduce the concentration of airborne particles, especially those harmful to health. However, you should be aware that they certainly do not eliminate everyone, both in terms of type and quantity. For example, purifiers seem to be completely ineffective in the context of reducing cigarette smoke or organic volatile compounds (VOCs).


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