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Air filtration systems don’t stop people from getting sick: Study

A new study warns that air filtration systems do not reduce the risk of picking up viral infections

Technologies including air filtration, germicidal lights and ionisers developed to indoor spaces safer are not effective in the real world, new study finds. (Pexels)

By Team Lounge

LAST PUBLISHED 20.11.2023  |  03:00 PM IST

The increasing prevalence of airborne diseases along with the worsening air pollution levels have made air purifiers crucial to protect health. While they can help in making air breathable, their effectiveness in removing disease-causing viruses is unclear. Now, a new study warns that air filtration systems do not reduce the risk of getting viral infections.

Air cleaners are designed to remove pollutants or contaminants from the air that passes through them. A new study, led by researchers from the University of East Anglia, has found that technologies including air filtration, germicidal lights and ionisers developed to indoor spaces safer are not effective in the real world. The study was published in the journal, Preventive Medicine.

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Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world, there has been increased talks about air filtration with more people looking into air filters as a way to keep airborne diseases at bay. However, since these are expensive, the researchers investigated the capabilities of such technologies to understand how effective they can be.

For this, they analysed data about microbial infections or symptoms in people exposed or not to air treatment technologies in 32 studies. These were conducted in real-world settings such as schools or care homes, the university's press statement revealed. The studies included technologies including filtration, germicidal lights, ionisers and any other way of safely removing viruses or deactivating them in breathable air.

The findings showed that there is no strong evidence that air treatment technologies can protect people in real-world settings. "There is a lot of existing evidence that environmental and surface contamination can be reduced by several air treatment strategies, especially germicidal lights and high-efficiency particulate air filtration (HEPA). But the combined evidence was that these technologies don't stop or reduce illness," lead researcher Julii Brainard said in the statement.

However, since these studies were not conducted during Covid-19, the researchers said studies that have been done during the pandemic can provide more detailed information and help people make a more informed judgement about the value of air treatment.

The findings show that it's important to examine the effectiveness of filtration technologies in removing viruses along with pollutants from the air. 

Also read: Air pollution: 4 gadgets, apps to help you track the AQI and breathe better