Addressing The Potential Dangers Of Electronic Air Cleaners
June 1, 2021
An open letter was written by Drs. Marwa Zaatari and Marcel Harmon addressing the use of electronic air cleaning equipment in public buildings is bringing attention to the potential dangers. The letter is supported by several of their fellow physicians, and it may make you rethink the equipment’s effectiveness.
The letter appeals to school district managers and administration, along with consultants and professionals in the Architecture, Engineering, and Construction industry. Citing studies showing the effectiveness of electronic air cleaners is unproven, the letter asks school districts and others to stop wasting Covid-19 relief funding on the equipment.
Understanding Electronic Air Cleaning Equipment
Electronic air cleaning devices remove minute particles from indoor air. The design can differ. Some devices use electrically charged particles, while others employ photocatalytic oxidation. The intent is the same, to remove pathogens from the air.
The effectiveness of the equipment is also the same, regardless of the type. The technology is limited, reducing its potential effectiveness. Peer and independent studies indicate the level of effectiveness is below what manufacturers report. Pathogen, particulate matter, and volatile organic compound (VOC) levels are not reduced to safe levels.
Tests used in the studies were performed in buildings used in real life. The tests show several factors that affect electronic air cleaners. These include the area’s configuration, type of system, materials in the room, along with the surfaces and finished. An electronic air cleaner will not have the same effectiveness in every room.
Additional Test Results
Independent tests on different types of electronic air cleaning devices backed up other studies. Equipment using needlepoint bi-polar ionization (NPBI) produced ions insufficient at cleaning the air. The device also produces VOCs, a potentially harmful airborne pollutant the equipment is designed to remove.
The Bureau of Toxic Substance Assessment (BTSA) studies indoor air quality in high school classrooms. Using NPBI technology to cleanse the air, they found an increase in ultrafine particles and ozone levels. The research is raising alarms not only at the equipment’s effectiveness but also if it is degrading indoor air quality.
Independent studies are extremely important to consumers, especially when dealing with potential life saving technologies. The Halo Air Purification System has extensive third party studies completed and we encourage everyone to review our Efficacy Report on the Halo Air Purification System Against Aerosolized MS2 Virus.
Health Is a Concern
Ozone is a lung irritate, and studies show that some electronic air cleaners produce it at levels deemed hazardous to humans. Ozone is thought to be a contributing factor in cancer, along with respiratory and autoimmune diseases. It does not apply to all electronic air cleaners. Some produce ozone at lower levels, but it is still a potential threat.
Currently, manufacturers of the equipment have not produced any white papers or research to back up their claims that the machines are safe and effective. They also have not produced information on the risk of potential exposure to free radicals or how it affects different demographics.
School districts need this crucial information before depending on electronic air cleaners to keep students, staff, and administrators safe from airborne contaminants. Standardized testing and protocols are needed to get the information.
Potential Negative Side Effects of Electronic Air Cleaners
Research on electronic air cleaners is incomplete. Researchers are still looking at the long-term effects of exposure to the charged particles produced by some air-cleaning machines. A review published in 2018 noted no signs of negative or positive benefits from exposure to negative ions. The study ended with a note from the authors their research was incomplete.
More recent studies are showing potential negative health effects. Cell and tissue damage from exposure to negative ions rose in college students with an electronic air cleaner in the dorm. A study on school children found an increase in variable heart rates. While both results are worth noting, the authors also mention more research is needed.
The whole point of purchasing and installing an air cleaner is to remove dangers from our air, instead you could be contributing to the problem. There are real dangers associated with air pollution, and we recommend reading: Recognizing Air Pollution’s Link to the Global Burden of Disease.
The Clean Air Market
Manufacturers are using slick marketing campaigns claiming electronic air cleaners are over 90% effective at removing pathogens. For cash-strapped school districts pressed to reopen to full capacity, the advertising and affordable price are attractive incentives.
The electronic air cleaner market has been compared to the Wild West. It’s an unregulated market where anything goes. The CDC strongly recommends consumer do their due diligence and don’t trust in unproven products.
Over the last year, the federal government has approved over $176 billion for K-12 schools for Covid relief. The money should only be spent on proven technology that does not include the implementation of electronic air cleaners.
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Director of Human Resources – Transitional Care and Rehabilitation Center