Experts say air purifiers can help prevent COVID-19 infection — to a point

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(NEW YORK) — Remember that chatter early during the pandemic about whether air purifiers could protect you from COVID-19 infection? 

Now that we’re seven months into it, we’ve got a better idea of what the deal is.  And the answer is: yes and no.

Research has already demonstrated that smaller respiratory droplets can remain suspended in the air for thirty minutes or longer, depending on the environment, air circulation and the like.  For an essay just published in the Washington Post, writer Lauren Daily asked the experts whether it was worthwhile to get a portable air purifier to help clean the air of those particles that could potentially carry the coronavirus. 

“The science is pretty clear. Portables with a high-efficiency HEPA filter and sized for the appropriate room can capture 99.97 percent of airborne particles,” says Joseph Allen, director of the Healthy Buildings program at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

What’s more, Daily writes, while it can take from two to three hours for the air to be exchanged in the average home, the addition of an air purifier can dramatically reduce that exchange to once every ten minutes.

And now the caveats. Do you really need an air purifier?  If you’re truly quarantined, with no strangers traipsing in and out, you probably don’t. But if a family member is at greater risk of bringing the virus home for whatever reason, adding an air purifier might be a sensible extra precaution.

And bottom line: You should still use masks, wash your hands and observe social distancing.

“Don’t let your guard down,” says Richard Corsi, dean of the Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science at Portland State University. “A purifier may lower the level of particles in the air, but it doesn’t eliminate the risk.”

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