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Will HEPA Air Purifiers Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus Indoors?

December 08, 2020

Will HEPA Air Purifiers Help Stop the Spread of Coronavirus Indoors?

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, has been a major health concern for citizens around the globe. Apprehension about the disease has motivated people in schools, office buildings, and private homes to seek ways to slow the spread of this troublesome disease.

Health experts express concern for the virus’s ability to linger in the air, especially in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. However, air purifiers with HEPA filtration could help improve air quality by capturing any lingering coronavirus that may be floating nearby.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced in October that it was amending its position on coronavirus transmission methods. In an official statement, the CDC admitted Covid-19 “can be spread by exposure to the virus in small droplets and particles that can linger in the air for minutes to hours.”

The CDC’s previous position had been that Covid-19 was spread by close person-to-person contact via respiratory droplets too large to remain airborne for long periods of time. However, as evidence of airborne transmission continued to mount, the CDC was forced to alter its stance.

Our understanding of exactly how this virus is transmitted from person to person has been evolving with both experience and research. This would explain the CDC’s rapid change in its coronavirus guidelines. As recently as September, the CDC had asserted that inhalation of large respiratory droplets was the main vector for spreading the virus.

SARS-CoV-2 measures approximately 125 nanometers, or .125 microns, in diameter. Many news sources have incorrectly reported that a HEPA filter can only capture particles that measure more than .3 microns. However, a high-quality air purifier with a HEPA filter is actually capable of effectively trapping particles that are much smaller than SARS-CoV-2 (as small as 10 nanometers or .01 microns).

With this filtration strength, a HEPA purifier is perfectly capable of trapping tiny viruses, as well as the aerosolized saliva and mucus that often transport them. Even the CDC has acknowledged the role a quality air purifier could play in indoor air quality during the pandemic. According to CDC guidelines, “when used properly, air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants, including viruses, in a home or confined space.”

The current CDC guidelines for health care professionals specify that the air from hospital rooms occupied by Covid-19 patients “should be exhausted directly to the outside or be filtered through a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter directly before recirculation.” These guidelines also advise that portable air purifiers with HEPA filtration should be used when permanent air handling systems are impractical or unavailable.

Considering hospitals and other medical facilities have used HEPA filtration since the 1940s, these guidelines make perfect sense. As the reported cases of Covid-19 continue to climb, many school systems and businesses are turning to portable air purifiers to enhance the effectiveness of HVAC units and natural ventilation in slowing the spread of this often dangerous disease. In fact, New York City Public Schools (NYCPS), the largest school system in the United States, recently purchased 30,000 air purification units to help keep their students and teachers safe.




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