Sorry, do not believe the hype. Consumer air purifiers do not kill COVID-19 – NO, NADA, NIX, NYET!
And that is because the typical HEPA and Activated Carbon filters remove dust particles and noxious gases – not zap a virus. In fact, the virus can live quite comfortably in the filter! We repeat – consumer air purifiers do not kill COVID-19.
Please understand that GadgetGuy has no scientific training. We are relying on third-party research and statements from the US Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to cut through the hype that has led to panic buying of products that do kill the virus.
How is COVID-10 transmitted?
The virus lives solely inside respiratory droplets. Transmission is via physical contact with an infected person or less likely by touching surfaces that they have been in close contact with. Read more here.
The virus typically dies within a few hours of exposure to air, although high humidity (like in a humidifier) can see that extend to a few days.
If it lands on a surface, a diluted bleach solution, anti-bacterial wipes, or at least a 70% alcohol-based solution will instantly kill it. There is a list of US cleaning products here (check downloads folder as it is a PDF). The CDC has instructions for cleaning here.
What about airborne transmission?
The infected respiratory droplet needs to get directly into your eyes, nose or mouth to infect you. Otherwise, it will land on a nearby surface and die fairly quickly.
Most masks ONLY TRAP TO .5MICRONS (COVID-19 is .1 micron). Masks are to contain your germs and provide an extremely rudimentary barrier to other people’s respiratory droplets entering via your nose or mouth – nothing more.
Airconditioning can distribute the virus – but it is an insignificant problem.
Snake oil cures abound
Remember that almost all consumer air purifiers will not kill a virus. In fact, in the US the Federal Trade Commission has issued warning letters to companies claiming that their products will.
Claims that ionic silver and various aromatherapy are virus preventers or killers – are false.
Claims that chlorine dioxide gas (released by a neck worn portable air purifier) kills the virus are false. It can offer limited protection but the gas dissipates very quickly. As a scientist said, “If someone is sneezing at you, will it be able to kill all the virus particles in the droplets in a fraction of the second? I doubt it.”
Ozone generators (primarily banned in the western world due to its impact on the atmosphere) can kill the virus with prolonged exposure, but the risk outweighs the benefits. Ozone is poisonous and carcinogenic; it can cause damage to cells and reaches dangerous levels when allowed to accumulate in enclosed spaces.
Negative Ion generators, also worn around your neck, have limited success (like chlorine dioxide) as the effectiveness drops dramatically outdoors where the air is dynamic. They also generate ozone, so it is not advisable to use them.
UV light sanitisers have some limited success in killing virus on small items like glasses and smartphones. But it takes considerable time and close-up exposure.
The bottom line is that these methods are far less effective than simply cleaning the surface with an approved disinfectant.
So, can a consumer air purifier kill a virus?
A traditional air purifier with a pre-filter, HEPA filter and activated charcoal filter will not trap and kill COVID-19. Sorry Mr Dyson (although I suspect that is one company that has not made outlandish claims) but any claim to the contrary is bull shit!
HEPA filters trap down to .3 microns. COVID-19 is .1 micron, so that is why these won’t work. In fact, it could redistribute the virus that would have otherwise settled on a cleanable surface.
What does work? Well, nothing in a consumer-based air purifier
What we do know is that virus (of any type) requires additional finer filtration (<0.1 microns) and some form of prolonged exposure to sterilisation to have any effect.
Science has shown that prolonged exposure to UV and Ions (typically 15 minutes) will kill a virus. The air passing through an air purifier is there for a fraction of a second.
And as the CDC says, that is only if the virus is airborne in the first place and that is highly unlikely.
The CDC has gone as far as saying that, “Portable filters (air purifiers) cannot capture coronavirus and could give someone a false sense of security.”
In fact, they added that it was best to open windows and let fresh air in unless the Air Quality index dictated otherwise.
But the corollary is that it can’t hurt to have a room air purifier, especially if you have respiratory issues and want to breath cleaner air – it just won’t be effective against COVID-19.
GadgetGuy’s take – more facts, less hype
First, and we repeat consumer air purifiers do not kill COVID-19. And avoid any making claims to ‘medical-grade’ filtration – this more marketing hype.
COVID-19 is a 2020 pandemic. With reasonable common-sense hygiene measures, it will be over soon and we can return to some semblance of normality.
While any mortality rate is tragic, its impact is more on on the economy – the world has pressed a reset button and all but stopped.
A side-effect of this is that were are going to see significant tech stock shortages over the coming months and our dollar is in the toilet so we suggest if you need tech, buy it now as it will be harder to get new stock and it may cost 20%+ more.