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Do You Need an Air Purifier To Fight COVID-19? Experts Say Not Really.

Concern over COVID-19 has led to worries about indoor air quality and if an air purifier can make sharing spaces a safer experience.

Although COVID-19 is predominately spread via close contact from person to person, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded, based on scientific evidence, that infections may occur from airborne transmission. 

This means that particles containing SARS-CoV2 can linger in the air and potentially infect persons who are more than 6 feet away from an infected person, or even after an infected person has left a shared space, explained Dr. Stacey Rose, assistant professor in the Infectious Diseases Section at Baylor College of Medicine on Thursday. 

“Better air circulation or ventilation can help to reduce the transmission of COVID-19, particularly if there is a mixture with outdoor air,” said Rose.

“There may be benefit to improving air flow and purifying the air in a room, office or building, Rose says, although the use of air filters alone cannot eliminate the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2, but may be helpful in combination with other infection control measures,” she said.

Rose stresses an air purifier in your home doesn’t mean less physical distancing, masking, hand-washing and disinfecting surfaces.

Should you get an air purifier?

Maybe. Or maybe not. According to Rose, the use of air purifiers is not meant to substitute for the other strategies for reducing the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV2. So simply filtering airborne particles and capturing them doesn’t mean you are actually preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Experts are saying that more data in real world settings is needed before affirming these strategies are effective for fighting COVID-19. 

As of now, while waiting for more data on filtration, purchasing an air purifier is a personal choice.

There are two different types of air purifiers.

Your own home is generally the safest place you can be during the COVID-19 pandemic, so the average person probably doesn’t need an air purifier, says Tim Peglow, assistant vice president of Patient Care and Patient Facilities at MD Anderson.

However, Peglow says if someone in your household has the coronavirus or needs to quarantine (for example, after traveling) it might make sense to have an air purifier in their room with the door shut.

If you want to purchase a purifier these tips below from Peglow may help. 

The U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says air filters that are part of a furnace or HVAC system are designed to filter the air throughout a home, while a portable air cleaner is intended to improve the air quality of a single room.

Peglow says most air cleaners fall into two categories: filters or sanitizers. 

 “Filters are designed to improve indoor air quality by physically removing tiny particles of matter that can be floating around — such as dust, pollen and pet dander,” he said. “These are all things that occur naturally, but can aggravate peoples’ allergies if they inhale them.” 

HEPA filters are the most common type of home filters right now, Peglow said. 

HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate arresting.” Peglow further explained that these filters are really good at pulling things out of the air and holding onto them so that they can’t be recirculated. 

Sanitizers are designed to kill bacteria, viruses, mold or fungal spores that can also be floating around, says Peglow. 

The most common type of sanitizers, that help to reduce airborne germs and kill viruses, are UV light devices, by exposing them to ultraviolet light, says Peglow.

Keep in mind the size of the room when you are purchasing an air purifier, and how much foot traffic the rooms in your home receive. Do you have a kid in school or a frontline worker in your home? These factors can help you decide on the right air cleaner. Here are more tips on optimizing ventilation and air filtration systems as part of COVID-19 infection prevention strategies.

Here’s more on EPA’s recommendation on reducing indoor airborne contaminants.

Forbes reported this month on the best air purifiers for your home, check them out here.

Written by RA News staff.


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