Vol.1, No.12

Air purifiers and allergy relief benefits

Air purifiers are machines that clean the air in a building of allergens, such as mold, pollen, and pet dander.

An allergy sufferer blows her nose
Photo Credit: Kati Neudert
Air purifiers are machines that clean the air in a building of allergens, such as mold, pollen, and pet dander. The purifiers come in several sizes and types, from the popular tabletop units to central filtrations systems that clean the air for a whole building. Air purifiers can be a real boon to the person who suffers from allergies.

Air purifiers work by several different methods. Some operate by passing the air in a room through a special type of filter that extracts particles that can cause allergies from the air. The clean air is then blown back into the room. The best air purifiers use a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter. The HEPA filter is 99.97% effective at removing particles of .3 microns or more from the air. Since a micron is one-millionth of a meter, it is obvious that using an air purifier with a HEPA filter can eliminate most pollens, mold spores, and especially pet dander.

Some air purifiers use ozone instead of a HEPA filter to clean the air. Some of these purifiers have proven to be dangerous, since they release levels of ozone into the air that are too high and unhealthy to the inhabitants of the building. Even safe levels of ozone may aggravate allergies in some individuals.

Other air purifiers work by an electrostatic process to charge the air and cause the allergens to be deposited on a special electrostatic filter. The air may then be passed through a charcoal filter to remove further impurities. The advantage of this type of purifier is that the filters are reusable. HEPA filters must be replaced periodically.

Room air purifiers have been proven to be the most effective purifiers. Tabletop models might clean too small an area, while central filtration systems are not as efficient as the room models.

The most effective use of a room air purifier is in areas where there are high levels of allergens. For example, if the family pet spends most of its time in the living room, that is the room with the highest concentration of pet dander and that is where the air purifier should be located. The purifier will clean the pet hair and dander out of the air, giving relief to allergy sufferers in the family. Similarly, if a bathroom has poor air circulation and regularly has buildups of mold, a small room purifier should be used to clean the mold spores out of the air. If the bathroom is too small for a regular room air purifier, a tabletop model should be purchased.

Air purifiers work best in a room where the doors and windows are always kept shut. This is the ideal situation; however, it is not always practical in households with small children. Care should be taken that the air inlets and outlets of the purifier are never blocked.

Air purifiers are only part of the solution for allergy relief. Although they will clean most allergens out of the air, the allergens might still be on surfaces, such as mold on a bathtub or cat hair on a bedspread. Air purifiers should be used in conjunction with other allergen reducing strategies, such as keeping pets out of sleeping areas and vacuuming frequently. As part of an overall allergy mitigation strategy, they can be very effective.