Indoor air pollution problem is a growing concern of more and more people. And this is not just out of curiosity. Fatigue, headaches, asthma, allergies, breathing difficulties, irritation of eyes, nose, and throat, high blood pressure, heart problems, poor mental performance coming from various indoor air pollution factors certainly ask for attention.
And there are reasons why the indoor air quality problem has grown in last decades. First, due to energy conservation initiatives, since the 1970s, new buildings are much more air tight, blocking the natural ventilation of the incoming outdoor air. Without enough attention to proper ventilation, the air tight buildings conserve and accumulate carbon monoxide, radon, and other pollutants.
A strong contribution to poor indoor air quality is those many newly-introduced synthetic materials used in construction, carpeting, insulation, pressed wood furniture and so on. They are much cheaper than the natural materials, yet in the buildings, they keep releasing formaldehyde and other toxic gases. Given the abundance of such materials in new homes, formaldehyde becomes a real health threat.
More reasons for concerns are brought by the new research information on the health effects of certain previously ignored pollutants. Those health effects can be fatal, but only show themselves years later. Like, for example, in case of asbestos, lead and certain other types of dust particles.
In the twenty first century you might expect that all the indoor air quality problems may be easily solved with some affordable enough technology, such as some kind of a revolutionary air filter. Yet, this is not the case. There is no one quick fix or device to clean everything in the air.
There is no universal solution. Instead there is a number of complementary means to control one or another aspect of indoor air quality including the best filterless air purifier.
When it comes to indoor air quality, it pays to know more on what you are doing and what is the real problem you need to solve. Or else you may end up spending lots of money, feeling relieved that now you can forget the problem, while in reality the main problem will still be there, causing the same harm.
So, when reading an air purifier review or comparing the advertised features, never miss the nonadvertised basics. And this site is here to help you with that.
Allergen types and control
Around 50 million people in the United States suffer from various types of respiratory allergies.
The most common allergens reach you through outdoor and indoor air. Those airborne allergens include:
- pollen: trees, grasses, weeds, or flowers;
- house dust;
- pet danger: flakes of dog or cat skin, their dried saliva and urine; much less often it is pet fur;
The best way to avoid many allergies is to control the airborne allergens. How effectively this can be done depends on the allergen type. For example, you can keep pollen, mold spores, dust mites, and various types of house dust under control with regular vacuuming and a carefully chosen air purifier. As for dogs and cats, experience shows that you can not do much about cat and dog allergens except removing the allergy source. For example, you can try reptiles or fish as pets instead.
Indoor Air Dust
Based on recent research studies, dust is expected to kill as many as 50,000 Americans every year [as discussed in a recent detailed overview “Death by Dust” by Peter Jaret, Health, 1059938X, June 2002, Vol. 16, Issue 5]. And it is not only breathing problems. Hart attack is another major health effect. And it is not only the larger particles that you can see floating in a light beam. The finest dust particles, the invisible ones, are particularly dangerous to your heart health.
House dust most commonly includes particles of fibers, human or animal skin, mold spores, dust mites, pollens, particles of foods or plants, hair, fur, feathers, and even dried saliva and urine from your pets, and also smoke that’s why we have air purifier for smoke reviews. There are also particles of skin from people in your household, from your dog or cat, or from other animals. Many of those particles are not just daily dirt. They are serious allergens.
Dust is coming from everywhere. Every time you are vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, cooking, or just walking around your house, you raise large amounts of dust particles into the indoor air. When the dust goes into the air from the ground or other dirty surfaces it also tends to pick up with it acidic aerosols and toxic metals. Those aerosols dissolve into your blood and may cause a variety of health damages beyond your breathing system.
Dust particles of different sizes tend to differ in the way they harm you. The largest dust particles, like 5-10 microns in size, are deposited in the nasapharyngeal region and may lead to congestion, inflammation, or ulceration. Then, 3-5 micron particles trigger bronchial congestion, bronchospasm, and bronchitis.
The still smaller particles go deeper into your lungs and many of them can go into your blood. When in the blood stream, those particles, as now believed, can decrease heart’s ability to adjust and control its rhythm in response to changing conditions, such as resting or exercising. Such dust-induced suppression of the heart-rate variability is shown to increase the heart attack risk.
Indoor air dust can also carry small bugs like aspergillus. This environmental spore is known to cause serious, even fatal, infections.
Proper dust control is an important aspect of health care.
Dust mites are one of the usual culprits behind many breathing problems. Based on a number of research studies, they are considered the most common cause of allergy in the United States.
Each dust mite excretes up to 20 droppings every day. The droppings are one of the main causes of allergies. These allergens float easily into the indoor air and get into your lungs.
Dust mites live even in the cleanest homes. You cannot see them, but they are there. Dust mite’s favorite places are mattresses, fabric furniture, and carpeting. They also manage on the dead skin that all of us shed every day.
Even if you would kill all the dust mites in your home, within a month or so their population would be back, coming from other places in which people spend time, such as other people’s homes or cars.
It is important not to underestimate the danger of dust mite allergy. Trigger the allergy long enough and you risk developing the so-called immune-mediated lung inflammation, better known as asthma.
Ideally, you would expect your vacuum cleaner to solve the dust mite problem. Many household vacuum cleaners will capture dust mites, but they won’t kill them. A vacuum cleaner bag full of dirt and dust is the environment dust mites thrive in. Especially if we use the same vacuum cleaner bag for a while.
Next time you do vacuuming, with many of normal vacuum cleaners, the microscopic allergen particles will be blown out of the cleaner through the bag pores into the indoor air. Quite an efficient factory of allergens.
Types of Air Purifiers for Home
HEPA Air Purifiers
A High Efficiency Particulate Arrestance or HEPA purifier uses mechanical filtration. It is basically a paper like air filter with a spaghetti of many long and narrow passages, which are also twisted and turned. The indoor air is then pumped through those filter passages so that the particles of air pollutants get stuck in those narrow passages and stay trapped there.
The particles clog the air passages, making them even more narrow, which enables the HEPA purifier to trap even smaller particles. Generally, HEPA filters have close to hundred (99.99) percent effectiveness in removing common particle allergens, including lead, asbestos and other dust, then pollen, dust mite droppings, mold spores and other particles, even as small as 0.1-0.3 microns. Currently HEPA filters are among the most commonly used and most effective air filters.
Like electrostatic/ionic air purifiers, HEPA filters do not trap any gaseous pollutants, such as formaldehyde, carbon monoxide, radon, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide, and so on. Yet, certain effect of gas absorption (but still not for radon or carbon monoxide) can be reached in units where a HEPA air purifier is combined with an activated carbon filter.
HEPA air filters can sometimes be added as parts to other systems. For example, filtering the outgoing airflow from a vacuum cleaner to trap the dust mite droppings. Those droppings are allergens generated in the vacuum cleaner bag, and they are thrown out in large amounts from vacuum cleaners without HEPA air filters.