Presenting the facts
There is no question that the air we breathe is critical to our overall health, and we must address indoor air quality (IAQ) to achieve healthier environments. As part of our approach in addressing IAQ, we must factor in solutions addressing all harmful contaminants from mold, bacteria, fungi, viruses, and other dangerous pollutants known as PM 2.5. The problem, however, is how we address such a complex problem. Many technologies are available — so how do you know which product will achieve the results needed to deliver a cleaner environment and reduce the risk of airborne virus transmission?
Let’s first look at the different technologies available:
- Hydroxyls (Ionization)
- Needlepoint bipolar ionization
- Plasma (ionization)
- UV-C – UVGI
The Facts About Ionization
We will start with ionization, as many air filtration/disinfection products promote this technology in many different misleading forms. Some even have compelling data promoting a 99% reduction. However, the truth is underwhelming once you peel back the layers of how these tests were performed. Before we get into the test data, let’s outline some key facts about this technology.
- Ion generation is limited in the total dose concentration output to reduce risks of ozone
- Density of ions will dissipate over a period of 60 seconds, not allowing enough ions to be released to “deactivate” a virus or bacteria within a room setting
- All test data from credible third parties (NIH, ACS, and EPA) have deemed ionization an insufficient means of air treatment with potential unintentional consequences.
- Ions can also contribute to secondary organic aerosols such as formic acid, chloroform, and acetic acid
- Creates an additive of particles and provides no filtration, therefore having no impact on the removal of harmful particles, both viable (living) and non-viable (not living)
See below links to ionization studies:
- Large-scale evaluation of microorganism inactivation by bipolar ionization and photocatalytic devices
- Study Shows that Electronic Air Cleaning Technology Can Generate Unintended Pollutants
- Effectiveness of a plasma treatment device on microbial air quality in a hospital ward, monitored by culture
- Use of Bipolar Ionization for Disinfection within Airplanes
- Falsely Advertised?: Class Action Claims Global Plasma Solutions’ Air Cleaning Products ‘Make the Air Worse’
When challenged in dynamic real-world conditions, ionization has proven ineffective and sometimes adds harmful pollutants to the facility. The impact is shown in scientific tests that were performed in a small chamber <40 cubic meters sq. under controlled conditions. Other data was obtained from controlled healthcare rooms where air change rates are at a premium of >8 air change rates per hour. There are simply no dynamic results available for any area where there is a high occupancy density and inadequate air handling systems. Test data presented to the public was performed not to challenge the product but rather to position the product in an environment where positive results are guaranteed. As you can see from the ionization studies, the evidence proves their ineffectiveness once these devices are challenged in real conditions outside of a chamber or controlled atmosphere.
While the idea of ionization, plasma, or nanostrike sounds compelling and cost-effective, the results prove otherwise, and cost becomes irrelevant if the product does not deliver expected results, leading to a false sense of security and putting you and others at continuous risk.
The Facts About UVGI
UV is another technology that comes with a lot of questions regarding efficacy and safety. While UV has proven to be effective in certain controlled conditions or at the point of contamination (heating/cooling coil, filter), UV is not an air purifier, nor can air by-pass through a mechanical fan with an integrated UV lamp, as this would not allow enough dose concentration within the irradiation zone to inactivate a microorganism. Proper placement and airflow and humidity management are needed for UV to operate at peak performance. Ozone is also an issue with UV and will need to be properly addressed. In addition to ozone, UV is an oxidizer and toxic to living things, so again, proper placement is essential for safety.
UVGI can be an effective piece to your mitigation strategies, but alone it will not be enough to improve your IAQ. If UVGI is a technology you want to consider, you must discuss it with a professional to ensure a designed placement layout is professionally presented. Studies have proven the effectiveness, but again only in a chamber or controlled testing. Research is still ongoing, especially for 222 nm, to determine the efficacy.
The Facts About Filtration
Filtration is by far the most effective solution for improved IAQ, with absolutely no unintentional by-products produced. However, there are some things you need to remain cautious about, as not all air purifiers are created equal. Simply adding a filtered system in a room is not enough. There are many things that must be considered, such as filter type, capacity and maintenance of filter replacements, and unit placement. Only the H14 HEPA filter should be used, and placement should never be on the floor outside of residential spaces. Additionally, sizing for the number of units for the air volume and occupancy density should also be a consideration.
Placement is crucial to the overall effectiveness. Much like UVGI, a professional should always be involved in determining where the air filtration system should be positioned and how many units are required to improve IAQ and provide the most efficient mitigation of airborne viruses. The ceiling is by far the most optimal position, as the intent is to take pollution of any kind away from the breathing zone. Additionally, this placement allows the unit to work with naturally occurring thermal plumes from heat sources such as humans.
Unlike ionization or UVGI, real-world studies have been performed in dynamic conditions to test the efficiency of these units. The data proves the efficacy and delivers results of total concentration load reductions. Tests were performed before installation to get a baseline and post-installation to measure the performance. These are by far the best results a customer could ask for as these provide realistic expectations of how a product will perform in conditions that occur in active settings.
Additionally, as stated in the White House Address “Let’s Clear the Air on Covid,” filtration and ventilation are the only proven technologies without unintentional consequences. Emerging technologies have not been proven effective in real-world conditions, nor have there been enough studies on the impact on long-term exposures. Any technology that adds an additive or claims to kill bacteria, fungi, or viruses should be researched thoroughly. We, as humans, are nothing more than a compilation of cells, so if additives are floating in the air to kill microorganisms, what is the impact on humans? Simply put, the best path forward is to use the technology that has been proven to work without risks.