Colorado State University has been looking into air purifiers that claim they can kill COVID-19. The new study found there is little research to support their claims — and suggests that one popular type of air purifier can actually create harmful pollutants.
“One of the most popular types of air purifiers on the market right now are ion-generating systems, including ‘bipolar ionization’ devices that electrically charge particles so they settle out of the air faster,” researchers stated. They are generally marketed to kill bacteria, fungi, and viruses.
They claim testing done on ionization devices was not done in “real-world” conditions, and that under “everyday operating conditions,” harmful byproducts may be formed when the ions react with other compounds in the air.
The study, published in Building and Environment, mimicked real-world operating conditions for these ionization devices to test the effectiveness and potential to form chemical byproducts.
Researchers say the reactions can potentially lead to the formation of formaldehyde and ozone, and new ‘ultrafine’ particles, which are known air pollutants.
Tests found that ionizing devices led to an increase in oxygenated volatile organic compounds — substances commonly found in paints, paint strippers, aerosol sprays and pesticides.
According to the EPA, exposure to VOCs has been linked to a range of health effects from eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, to damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system, and some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.