Sept. 23, 2021
Spring is in the air! But how safe are you indoors and can you make it any safer for you and your family? The Cleaner Air research team at the University of Melbourne, led by A/Prof Robyn Schofield, provide some helpful tips on how to choose the right device.
Spring is in the air! A statement that usually bring up images of tiptoeing through the tulips; but for allergy and asthma sufferers it’s time to take cover.
For nearly 4.6 million people in Australia spring means a runny nose, sneezing, watery or itchy eyes.
Services such as the Melbourne Pollen Count and Forecast can help many sufferers plan their day and week ahead by providing users with sophisticated pollen forecasts for a range of aeroallergens.
But how safe are you indoors? Many of us spend 90% of our day inside. These indoor spaces can also be full of air pollutants such as pollen, dust and animal hair, that aggravate conditions like hayfever and asthma.
Air cleaners (sometimes also called air purifiers or scrubbers) have been used for decades to filter out particles in the air from our homes, offices, and classrooms.
Air cleaners are portable devices that you can use in an indoor space to reduce unwanted air particles.
How do air cleaners work?
Air cleaners usually consist of a filter, or multiple filters, and work by pulling in air from within a room and filtering out the pollutants such as smoke, pollen and respiratory aerosols and returning clean air to the room. Typically, filters are made of paper, fibre (often fibreglass), or mesh, and require regular replacement to maintain efficiency.
Most don’t remove gases, although the activated carbon filter does remove odours (known as volatile organic compounds or VOCs) from the air.
Types of filters
There are many different types of air cleaners and multiple filter types, though not all filters are the same.
Which air purifier works best?
For allergy or asthma sufferers, an air purifier with a HEPA + activated carbon filter is likely to be most helpful as it is the most efficient in removing fine airborne particles and dust, pollen, mould and bacteria.
HEPA filters also remove 99.97 per cent of aerosolised virus particles in the air, which is of great interest in the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Associate Professor Robyn Schofield and her team from the University of Melbourne conducted a comparison of air cleaners based on clean air delivery and value for money.
The team collated devices available on the Australian consumer market. They provided purchasing guidance for products that are safe – that is they only use HEPA and activated carbon filtration and don’t operate as directional fans without filtration
Comparison of air cleaners based on clean air delivery and value for money. Graphic: University of Melbourne
Many popular brands didn’t meet these criteria, however many did, including the locally manufactured InovaAir device.
Things to avoid
Things to consider when purchasing
If you do decide to purchase an air purifier to reduce allergy symptoms, keep in mind that the effectiveness and noise of the devices can vary greatly. It is important to consider what air pollutants you would like to filter, and the size of the room you will be using it on.
Declaration: No funding from air cleaner manufacturers has been received to prepare this information piece. Indoor air does not have regulatory standards in Australia, and independent testing of air cleaning devices is not performed. If you found this information useful and would like more information you can contact A/Prof Robyn Schofield and the Cleaner Air research team at the University of Melbourne.