Do Modern Air Purifying Technologies Help In Combating Covid-19?
Businesses and industries almost across the board have suffered as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. That includes restaurants, bars, and travel businesses, just to name a few. While the sectors mentioned above are facing the brunt of the impact, the same cannot be said of the air purification industry.
It’s easy to see why. The constant fear of the spreading virus exhorted people to find the best ways to prevent infection. After all, the Sars-CoV-2 virus is so dangerous because of its ability to linger in the air longer than the common flu virus. Factor in its seemingly endless capability to mutate, and you get a dangerous “supervillain” in our midst.
So, do modern air technologies really help in preventing the spread of the Covid-19 virus? If so, what are the best air technologies to do that? Let’s take it a step at a time.
Do Air Purifiers Help Stop The Spread of Covid-19?
Just to be clear, there is no one foolproof technology that can wipe out Covid-19 or any other virus for that matter. It has to be a collective effort by an assortment of things, and air purifiers certainly deserve a layer in our protective armor.
Here’s the thing. A definitive answer lies in knowing how the virus spreads and how air purifying technologies work. When you get a good grasp of these things, then you can determine whether a particular air purifying technology could help safeguard you and your family against Covid-19.
For example, mucus-based viral infections like Covid-19 can spread through aerosols or droplet nuclei. Even when exposed to open air, droplets or aerosols remain highly infectious. On top of potential droplet transmission through considerable distances, the short-range transmission may also be possible when an infected person coughs, exhales, or sneezes.
Direct contact with exposed surfaces and then touching the mouth or eyes may also cause infection. However, personal hygiene, not an air purification technology, is the only defense for that possibility.
Best Air Purifying Technologies That May Help Against Covid-19
UV Light Air Cleaners
Ultraviolet light has historically been used in treating surfaces, air, and water. At some point, somebody thought it may be a good idea to kill aerial microbes with it. How does it actually work?
Ultraviolet air purifiers use short-wave ultraviolet light, or UV-C light, to disarm viruses, bacteria, and other aerial microorganisms found in the air. UV-C light can ravage the nucleic acids of viruses and bacteria in the air. When the dirty air comes in contact with ultraviolet light, it destroys the biomolecules of these airborne microorganisms. The result is more hygienic air and a cleaner breathing process. These air purifiers are often called UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation) purifiers.
However, some experts argue that most UV light air purifiers on the market may not be enough to kill viruses. While it effectively combats mildew and other microorganisms, an average UVC light air purifier needs to shine for at least 12.5 seconds to effectively kill around 99.9% of the virus.
Why is that a problem? After all, 12 seconds is just long enough for me to write the period at the end of this sentence. Here’s the thing: The air passing into the purifier only takes 0.35 seconds, only a fraction of the time needed to kill all of the viruses. Using simple math, the average UVC light alone could just get rid of around 2% of viruses that go near the lamp!
The good news is, you can always opt for something more powerful. There are air purifiers with UV lights that offer a much higher dosage of 150 mW/square centimeter. Still, that unit would take 0.5 seconds to eliminate almost all viruses, falling short of the 0.35-second threshold.
HEPA Filtration System
HEPA stands for “High-Efficiency Particulate Air” filter. It is a type of mechanical filter that works by pushing the air into a fine mesh, thereby trapping all kinds of small particles such as smoke, pollen, and others.
Now, here’s the million-dollar question: Can it handle the Covid-19 bad boys? Apparently, yes, and probably even more effective than UVC technology (for reasons mentioned above). Again, it takes simple math to help us figure that out. A Covid-19 virus is 125 nanometers in diameter. HEPA purifiers are pretty good catchers themselves, filtering particles of at least 10 nanometers in size.
But then again, should you completely trust a HEPA filter to do its job? Of course, but it does little to protect you if you’re beside someone with Covid-19. A bodyguard couldn’t shield you from harm if he’s standing across the room and the assassin is right next to you.
Anything that could offer help in resisting Covid-19 is welcome, but do ionizers really have a chance?
First of all, let’s get to the basics of how ionizers work. Ionizers operate pretty much like static electricity. It gives air particles an electrical charge that is opposite to their own electrical charge. The result is a magnet effect where ionizers hold the particles in their place and make them stay there.
But does it work against Covid-19? While ionizers won’t likely kill viruses with their electric charge, that doesn’t mean that it’s completely useless against them. Airborne viruses like Covid-19 often attach themselves to particulates in the air, and ridding the house of these particulates can help ground the virus, so to speak. Ionizers effectively reduce indoor air pollutants, and even though they do not immediately kill the virus, they prevent them from reaching into the air.
The drawbacks of using an ionizer are the possibility that it may emit ozone, and it may not handle pet dander very well. Ozone may cause lung irritation and may possibly lead to breathing difficulties. Our furry friends’ discharges such as dust and dander could crowd out an ionizer because millions of them break out in the air.
Do I Need an Air Purifier?
While one or a combination of the three air purifying technologies mentioned are welcome additions to any planned defense against Covid-19, the reality is that the best way to prevent infections is to avoid exposure to the virus. With that being said, social distancing, good personal hygiene, wearing protective masks, and eating healthy are still the top ways to beat Covid-19.
Of course, if you can afford to buy an air purifier to bolster your defense, why not? UV light air purifiers are often manufactured in combination with HEPA filters, so the former’s deficiencies are aptly covered by the latter. Ionizers may not be the answer if you have dogs and cats in the house, but if not, it’s a totally excellent option.
At the end of the day, we do what’s best for our health and our family’s. Along with proper nutrition, social distancing, vaccination, wearing protective covering, and frequent handwashing, air purifiers may help us win the fight against Covid-19.