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Can a HEPA air purifier protect you from COVID-19?

by Vivien Mah    

Fresh, outside air

Can air purifiers protect you from COVID-19? 

As the pandemic continues to affect our lives more directly, many of us have normalised a heightened sense of cautiousness - and who could blame anyone for wearing extra face masks, goggles and even face shields?

Little do people know, that the most effective wearable protection (mandated by the CDC) is a specific combination of:

  • 1 x KN95 mask coupled with;
  • 1 x any other mask that’s not KN95

This is simply because you only need one filter and an extra layer to provide a snug fit that reduces gaps for viruses to enter. Goggles and face shields on the other hand, only cover your eyes and face - but you can still breathe these viruses in.

Having said that, it’s crucial that people understand what fundamentally protects us from COVID-19 (such as masks), and what are supplementary (face shields, goggles and air purifiers). 

To protect yourself from COVID-19 fundamentally, this infographic can be printed for your convenience and own use:

COVID-19 coronavirus - how to avoid infection

 

Infographic courtesy of healthdirect.

 

Once and only once you have these basic hygiene habits covered, can we move on to supplementary products such as HEPA air purifiers, how they protect you from COVID-19 and whether they are worth the purchase.

What are HEPA air purifiers and why should I care?

HEPA stands for “High Efficiency Particulate Air” and refers to a filter that can remove 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm). The interesting thing about this size is that it’s the worst-case-scenario, and any particle smaller or larger than 0.3 microns (µm) is even easier to remove.

COVID-19 particles vary in sizes between 0.06 to 1.4 microns, which makes a HEPA filter effective against them. However, in spite of HEPA filters and face shields having been shown to reduce inhalational exposure to airborne contaminants by 96%, they are not silver bullets. Instead, they should always be used on top of our best practices to fight COVID-19.

To put this further into perspective, studies by the CDC compared the efficacy of universal masking (the use of face masks in public places by everyone who is not fully vaccinated) and HEPA air cleaners in reducing airborne particles similar to COVID-19. The study found that:

  1. Two HEPA air purifiers without universal masking reduced aerosol particles by up to 65%
  2. Universal masking without HEPA air purifiers reduced aerosol particles by 72%
  3. Two HEPA air purifiers AND universal masking effectively reduced aerosol particles by up to 90%

Simply put, having HEPA Air Purifiers in an indoor environment greatly increased the efficacy in reducing the concentration of potentially harmful viruses such as COVID-19 in the air.

Will a HEPA air cleaner protect us from the COVID-19 Delta variant?

While it was seemingly hopeful that infections around the world were dropping at the start of 2021, July hit us with the unfortunate COVID-19 Delta variant.

Here are some key facts about the Delta Variant (from the CDC) we need to know about:

  1. It’s twice as contagious
  2. Anyone unvaccinated is more likely to develop worse symptoms
  3. Anyone unvaccinated is almost likely to transmit the virus
  4. Unvaccinated people can still spread the virus, but for a shorter time

This points to a very important lesson, which is to get vaccinated as soon as we possibly can.

Having a HEPA air purifier alone would not protect us from COVID-19, variant or not.

Should we purchase HEPA portable air purifiers to fight COVID-19?

The best thing about HEPA portable air cleaners is that they have long existed even before COVID-19, so what were they used for prior?

These air purifiers were meant to reduce the risk of contaminants, be it bacteria or viruses so that we don’t get sick or simply reduce allergic symptoms. For some others, it could be as simple as removing bad odours or air pollution if you might be living near roads or construction sites.

The EPA has a guide to air cleaners and the main takeaways are:

  • To filter the air effectively for harmful particles, HEPA is recommended
  • Most air cleaner packaging will tell you the largest size area or room it should be used in
  • For odours, opt for activated carbon filter or other filter designed to remove gases
  • The faster you run the fan and the longer you run an air cleaner for, the cleaner your air

That last point speaks for itself but if you find your electric bills shooting through the roof, you can consider running air cleaners every alternate day for a couple of hours instead of 24/7.

These HEPA air purifiers that you’re getting for your home are a long-term investment at the end of the day, so it’s definitely worth the time and effort getting something good for you and your family.

Speaking of money that the government could save, a recent article claimed that a $50 million investment in HEPA air purifiers could provide all classrooms in New South Wales with cleaner air. This means lesser asthma attacks, filtered bushfire smoke as well as reduction in the spread of COVID-19. 

If you ask us, this is definitely worth the investment compared to the $200 million lost daily due to lockdowns.

Where can I buy a HEPA air purifier?

In the end, air purifiers and face shields are just tactics you’ll need to reduce contaminants in the air in the battle against COVID-19. To win the war against its spread, the most important strategy here would be to follow best practices (as advised by WHO), which are:

  • Staying updated on local guidance and following national, regional and local authorities on what to do with the most relevant information for where you are.
  • Social distancing of at least 1 metre away from others.
  • Wearing a mask.
  • Washing / cleaning your hands before and after coming in contact with anything communal using soap and water, or using alcohol-based sanitisers.
  • Avoiding physical contact with surfaces, especially in public settings or health facilities
  • Avoiding crowded places which are poorly ventilated, indoor locations
  • Avoiding prolonged contact with others. 
  • Spending more time outdoors than indoors.
  • Ventilation is important: Open windows when indoors to increase the amount of outdoor air.
  • Cleaning surfaces regularly with standard disinfectants.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when sneezing / coughing.
  • Getting vaccinated.

Whether you’re at home, in school or at the workplace - all of us will need to do our due diligence to stay safe and keep all our loved ones protected. 

Of course, it’s always good to be extra cautious especially if it concerns both the health of ourselves and our loved ones. Should you need a recommendation for the most suitable HEPA air purifier for your home, contact us here or click below to browse our catalog.

As always, take care and stay safe!