The Truth About Air Purifiers and Allergies: An Expert's Perspective

As an environmental microbiologist and consultant for Honeywell, I have spent years researching the effectiveness of air purifiers for allergies. With so many claims and promises from manufacturers, it can be difficult to determine if these devices truly work. In this article, I will share my expert insights on the topic and provide you with the facts you need to know. First and foremost, it's important to understand that not all air purifiers are created equal. While some may claim to use advanced technology like ionizers and ultraviolet light to kill bacteria, there is no scientific data to support these claims.

In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that only HEPA portable air purifiers have been proven to be beneficial for allergy and asthma symptoms, as well as cardiovascular health. However, even with HEPA filters, the benefits may be small and not solely due to the air filter itself. This is because air purifiers only filter a small space inside the house, limiting their overall impact. They are designed for closed environments where air is cleaned before entering the room and then expelled from the building. This means that they may not effectively filter small particles that are distributed in other levels or rooms of your home. I have personally tested various air purifiers for my own seasonal allergies, specifically my usual symptoms of watery eyes and runny nose.

While one manufacturer claimed their air purifier “completely revolutionizes the clarity of the air you breathe, making you feel better,” I did not experience any significant improvement in my symptoms. While there are many ways to treat and prevent seasonal allergies in children of all ages, using an air purifier has been a hotly debated topic. This is because most of the particles that trigger allergy and asthma symptoms, such as dust mites and mold spores, only remain in the air for a short period of time before settling as dust. This means that air purifiers may not be the most effective method for managing these types of allergies. It's also important to note that air purifiers are not designed to eliminate mold, nor can they remove musty odors associated with mold. This is because manufacturers cannot definitively demonstrate the health benefits of these devices, leading them to focus on technology rather than the end result. Elizabeth Matsui, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and chair of the committee on air pollution and indoor allergens of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, explains that pollen doesn't stay in the air for long and tends to settle quickly.

This means that air purifiers may not be effective in removing pollen from your home. One feature that many air purifiers have is an indicator light that alerts you when it's time to replace the filter. While this can be helpful, it's important to note that air purifiers can take time to remove smoke from the air. Some models may be more effective than others, so it's important to do your research before purchasing one. Over the years, the Federal Trade Commission has taken action against several manufacturers of air purifiers for making baseless claims or falsely stating that their devices remove all impurities from indoor air. This includes well-known brands like Honeywell and Oreck. It's also worth mentioning that many people have had negative experiences with air purifiers in the past.

In fact, most of us have probably owned a fan that simply recycled the air and generated noise without any real benefits. This is why it's important to do your research and choose an air purifier from a reputable brand with proven effectiveness. When I asked Ted Myatt, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Rhode Island and a consultant for Honeywell, if I would feel healthier after using a household air purifier for an extended period of time, he was puzzled. This is because there is no definitive answer to this question. While air purifiers may provide some benefits for allergies, they are not a cure-all solution.

Eelco van den Wal
Eelco van den Wal

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