If you have allergies or live in a smoggy city, you probably already know that air purifiers can help you breathe easier. But now that we know that COVID-19 can be transmitted through airborne particles, we're looking at these household tools in a whole new light. Air purifiers effectively filter pollen, mold, and bacteria out of the air; could they remove SARS-COV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) particles as well?
The data says yes, and one company is positioning its air purifier (shown at the 2021 Consumer Electronics Show, aka CES) as the one to choose. The Brondell Pro Sanitizing Air Purifier ($650) contains five layers of filtration that, according the company, allow it to clean the air in a 538 square foot room up to 3.4 times in one hour and "not only capture, but eliminate viruses," the only purifier certified to do so. According to MRIGlobal lab tests, it does just that, eliminating 99.9 percent of live and aerosolized COVID-19 particles within 15 minutes. (The study was sponsored by Aurabeat, which produced the AG+ filtration technology used by the Brondell Pro.)
Is that a claim we can trust? Well, the key element here is the Brondell Pro's antiviral H12 HEPA Grade filter. HEPA stands for "high efficiency particulate air," and filters with this label are able to capture particles that are the size of or even smaller than SARS-COV-2. (These types of filters are also used on most commercial airplanes.)
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air filters used properly "can help reduce airborne contaminants including viruses in a building or small space," and can be especially helpful when it's not possible to open a window or a door to get some outside ventilation. However, the agency noted that filtration alone "is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19"; rather, it's most effective when used alongside other precautions, like wearing face masks and limiting the number of people you interact with indoors.
This is all good news if you're interested in the Brondell Pro, which also has another benefit going for it. According to Brondell, the air purifier's other layers of protection, beyond the HEPA filter, are designed to break down the cell membrane of the virus particle. This destroys its DNA, RNA, and effectively the particle itself. Basically, it's meant to not just catch the virus but also eliminate it altogether.
It's worth noting that, according to the New York Times, we're not yet sure what level of protection air filters can provide from a practical standpoint. If you're sitting right next to someone with COVID-19, for example, will an air filter across the room be able to filter their exhalations before the particles reach you? That's a question we don't know the answer to just yet, so right now it's best to follow the CDC's current recommendations: that air purifiers are effective as a supplement to the other precautions. If that's some extra protection you want in your home or workplace, the Brondell Pro might be an option to try.