The Stink on Air Filters: Which airfilters relieve asthma symptoms and help improve indoor air quality?

I'm looking for the best room air purifier.  Or should we invest in something that would work on our furnace/air conditioner system?  I've been suffering all winter from sinus infections and increased food allergies from a weakening immune system.  Since we've been remodeling I think it's time to seriously look at our indoor air pollution to cut down on allergens.  Thanks so much for any help you can give!!!

--S.I. in Ohio

Dear S.I.

I'll start with the bad news: At best, air filters are just not that effective.  If, however, you decide you must have an air filter, then you should know that 1) some air filters actually do more harm than good and 2) even the good ones won’t really clean the air or relieve asthma symptoms, according to the EPA.

The problem with many air filters is that they can produce ozone. Ozone is most often associated with the upper atmosphere where it helps protect us from harmful rays of the sun, but when released at ground-level it is an irritant that can restrict lung function and trigger asthma.  There is also research to suggest that ozone in the home can react with other common household products such as air fresheners or cleaners to create irritants such as ultra-fine particulates and formaldehyde. Currently there are no regulations governing ozone emissions from home purifiers, so you are on your own! 

The good news is that you don't even need an air filter to help ELIMINATE sources of pollution and to ventilate the home. You are clearly aware of the many health issues that go along with poor indoor air quality. Elimination of the sources of pollution is the best method. Since you are undergoing a renovation, make sure you are buying green products with the lowest possible VOCs. In particular, look out for formaldehyde in pressed wood products, VOCs of all kinds in paints and finishes, and the irritating dusts from finishing drywall. Before you start filtering, simply open the windows to air out the house as much as possible.  Fans can help with this. Read more about indoor air quality issues and green cleaning as you may be surprised at how big of an issue simple things like cleaners or carpets, etc., can be in damaging indoor air quality.

When you shopping for air purifiers look for ones that rely on filters because they are better at trapping dust, pollen, and smoke without producing harmful side-effects. Avoid ozone purifiers and electrostatic precipitators.

Consumer Reports gets the issues with cleaning up air quality first and is a good source of information on consumer products. See what they think about different room and home air purifiers. The Mighty Nest is just one green shopping site that offers a variety of air purifiers. They like Austin Air ranging from $350 to $600 and you can get a Green Mama discount on their site: 10% off first order with the coupon code "GREENMAMA10.

Good luck and stay healthy!

Written by The Green Mama, Manda Aufochs Gillespie.

The Green Mama © 2013 All rights reserved.

Copyright Policy - The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with the prior written permission of The Green Mama. For any questions regarding reprints and permissions of thegreenmama.com content, please contact us.