Can Air Purifiers Make You Sick? Debunking the Myths

Air purifiers have gotten popular in recent years as more and more people realize the importance of clean indoor air. However, some people have heard these devices can actually make you sick.

Top down view of HEPA air purifier on wooden floor

The short answer is no: modern air purifiers cannot make you sick. We’re going to debunk some common myths about air purifiers and explore the facts to help you make an informed decision.

Need help choosing the best HEPA air purifier for your home or office?

How Air Purifiers Work

Air purifiers remove contaminants from the air, like dust, pollen, pet dander, smoke particles, and even certain bacteria and viruses.

They use filters to trap these particles. Some models also use other technologies like UV light or ionization to enhance air quality.

They come in various sizes and designs, from small units for single rooms to larger systems for entire buildings.

Common Misconceptions

Now let’s clear up some misconceptions that may lead to the belief that air purifiers can make you sick.

Myth 1: Air Purifiers Remove All Bacteria and Viruses

They do their best, but none of them remove 100% of all bacteria and viruses. What they do is remove any particle from the air that’s above a certain size – for good HEPA purifiers, that size is 0.3 microns.

Most viruses and bacteria are at least that big, so they will get removed by your air purifier. A few are smaller. Also, the gases that cause odors are really tiny, so HEPA alone won’t remove odor. Most purifier filters come with a charcoal layer that can absorb odor.

The lower the particle size your purifier can remove, the better your indoor air quality will be. Be sure to read what the manufacturer says before you buy.

Myth 2: Air Purifiers Produce Harmful Ozone

This used to be an issue. They actually sold ozone machines that did nothing but release ozone, until studies found this was potentially harmful to our health. (I had one – ugh.)

That technology went away, thankfully. While some modern air purifiers may emit small amounts of ozone as a byproduct, reputable manufacturers ensure that the levels remain below safety limits.

Look for certified air purifiers that meet industry standards for ozone emissions.

Myth 3: Air Purifiers Can Cause Allergies

I’m not sure how this one got started. Air purifiers can very much benefit allergy and asthma sufferers. They reduce allergens in the air, like pollen, dust mites, and pet dander.

Apparently, sometimes people don’t realize they need to unwrap their filters from the plastic wrap. If you turn on a purifier with plastic around the filter, it will stir up pollutants without removing it.

Another possibility is failing to change the filters often enough. If they’re clogged badly, you’ll have the same effect as if you’d left the plastic on.

Potential Benefits of Air Purifiers

Now let’s talk about the benefits of using air purifiers in your living or working environment.

Improved Indoor Air Quality

Air purifiers effectively remove a wide range of pollutants, including allergens, dust, smoke particles, and VOCs. By reducing these contaminants, air purifiers create a healthier and more comfortable indoor environment.

Allergy and Asthma Relief

Air purifiers significantly reduce allergens in the air, providing relief for allergy and asthma sufferers. They capture and trap pollen, pet dander, and dust mites, alleviating symptoms.

Odor Elimination

Air purifiers with activated carbon filters absorb and neutralize odors from pets, cooking, and other sources. This feature is especially useful in households with pets or kitchens where cooking odors linger.

Protection against Airborne Diseases

Most air purifiers are designed to target and capture bacteria and viruses, offering an extra layer of protection against airborne diseases. However, they should not replace other preventive measures like hygiene practices and vaccinations.

That’s because they can’t clean all the air instantly. Whenever a contagious person is breathing in your home and you inhale the air they just breathed, you are likely to become infected.

4. Factors to Consider

When choosing an air purifier, consider the following factors to ensure you select the right device for your needs.

Size and Coverage Area

Choose an air purifier that suits the size of the room or area you want to purify. Different models have varying coverage areas, so ensure the device effectively cleans the air in your space without being too small or unnecessarily large.

Filtration Efficiency

Pay attention to the type of filters used in the air purifier. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are considered the most effective for trapping small particles, including allergens and microorganisms. Look for an air purifier with a certified HEPA filter for optimal filtration.

Noise Levels

Consider the noise levels produced by the air purifier, especially if you plan to use it in a bedroom or office. Some models have adjustable fan speeds or sleep modes to minimize noise during nighttime use.

Maintenance and Filter Replacement

Regular maintenance and filter replacement are crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of your air purifier. Consider how easy it is to maintain and find replacement filters, as well as the cost involved, before making your purchase.