Should you buy an air purifier to help prevent the spread of Covid?
If you haven’t been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, you are either straight-up trolling or lying. The fact of the matter is, the total Covid deaths is nearly six million, not to mention the countless businesses that closed and the jobs that flushed down the drain with it.
That is why experts have constantly reminded us to take extra precautions. Vaccines, wearing masks, washing hands — all of these are supposed to protect us against the virus. But would an air purifier offer an extra level of defense against Covid? While they are proven tools in reducing allergens such as pollen and mold, will air purifiers work against the coronavirus?
To know the answer, let us first discern how viruses are transmitted and how air purifiers work. Only then can we clearly determine if they’re worth giving a try to help ward off Covid.
How Covid is Transmitted
According to the World Health Organization, coronavirus could spread between people in three different ways.
- Close contact with an infected person. The evidence shows that the virus can quickly spread, mainly because of close contact with an infected person. How close is “close?” For instance, conversational distance may be considered “close” in these circumstances. Infected persons may cough, sneeze, and breathe and these actions could carry around infectious particles in the air. These particles, or aerosols, could be inhaled or come in direct contact with the eyes of a nearby uninfected person and be transmitted.
- Contact with contaminated objects or surfaces. Although this is unlikely, the coronavirus could be present in objects and surfaces for at least two hours up to several days, depending on the conditions. When people touch these surfaces and rub their eyes or mouth afterward, they could become infected.
- Long-range airborne transmission. Even if not in direct contact with an infected individual, the aerosols or droplets from a Covid-infected person stay in the air. The aerosols may travel long distances or stay airborne in a poorly-ventilated space. If you happen to be in that area long enough, you may get infected.
How Air Purifiers Work
Air purifiers use mechanical filtration to “purify” or “filter” the air. These filters are often made with a mesh woven with synthetic fibers or glass. HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters are a type of mechanical filter and are the most common filtration system found in most air purifiers. HEPA filters can strain any airborne particle from 10 nanometers (0.01 microns) in size to about 0.3 microns.
Here is basically how it works:
- The air in the room passes through the air purifier’s filter screen.
- Then, the filter material strains particles in the air such as dander, dirt, allergens, and pollen. There are stronger types of filters that can remove bacteria and other microorganisms.
- Dirt and contaminants that are too big to pass through build up in the filter. Thus, the air flowing through the filter media is reduced. Eventually, the air purifier must be cleaned, and the air filter must be replaced to achieve better airflow. Rinse and repeat.
Can Air Purifiers Help Against Covid?
Yes, air purifiers with HEPA filters can trap coronavirus particles. The science behind it is simple: While the Covid-19 virus is just 0.125 microns, it travels in droplets or aerosols around 1 micron in size. HEPA filters catch anything as small as 0.3 microns, which fits the bill.
With that being said, everything about air purifiers and coronaviruses is not a walk in the park, either. You can’t just push up an air purifier against the wall and act like the problem is solved. HEPA filters inside air purifiers are very effective at straining out particles, including the coronavirus. Still, these particles must first get to the filter to be filtered.
Therefore, there are two things that you need to do. First, you need to put the air purifier with minimal airflow and in an area where it can persistently draw in air. Second, the air purifier should be able to process or cycle through the filter fast, or else, it couldn’t keep up with the airflow.
Regarding the first point, according to experts, an air purifier must be put in a room that needs ventilation and as close to the middle of the room as possible. Never put it up against the wall, or it’s useless.
About the second, you can solve that problem by buying an air purifier with adequate CADR or “clean air delivery rate.” The CADR of the unit is often printed in the packaging. I don’t want to be overly technical, but the rule of thumb is ‘the higher the clean air delivery rate, the faster an air purifier can cycle it through the filter.’ When that happens, the chances of the filter straining more particles is higher.
Final Thoughts on Air Purifiers and Viruses
While it’s true that air purifiers could lend a helping hand in getting rid of coronavirus particles, it’s not supposed to be our first line of defense against it. Why? Even the most potent air purifier couldn’t prevent droplets from landing on surfaces where the viruses could still survive for days. Apparently, filtration is not enough.
To fortify your defense against the spread of the coronavirus, you should be extra vigilant in cleaning your home and don’t take any chances by frequently washing your hands. These include cleaning frequently touched surfaces and finding ways to improve ventilation in your homes.
Does this mean that you should not consider purchasing an air purifier? Not necessarily. There are more effective options in helping prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but if we’re focusing on Covid too much, we may be losing a grip on the real elephant in the room. For example, air purifiers can handle dust, allergens, and smoke which are far deadlier for people with allergies or asthma. Therefore, using an air purifier to improve indoor air quality is more plausible than using it to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
The bottom line is this: No amount of air purifiers can stop the spread of the coronavirus. They could help, but expecting too much out of them is not fair.