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Indoor air pollution is among the top five environmental health risks.
Usually the best way to address this risk is to control or eliminate
the sources of pollutants and ventilate a home with clean outdoor air.
But opportunities for ventilation may be limited by weather conditions
or by contaminants in the outdoor air.
If the usual methods of addressing indoor air pollution are
insufficient, such as using your vacuum cleaner
, home air purifiers may be useful. Air filters and other
air-cleaning devices are designed to remove pollutants from indoor air.
Some are installed in the duct work of a home’s central heating,
ventilating, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system to clean the air in the
entire house. Portable room air cleaners can be used to clean the air in
a single room or in specific areas, but they are not intended to filter
the air in the whole house. Air-cleaning devices are categorized by the
type of pollutants — particulate and gaseous — that the device is
designed to remove or destroy.
Mechanical air filters
, such as high efficiency
particulate air (HEPA) filters, remove particles by capturing them on
filter materials. Most mechanical air filters are good at capturing
larger airborne particles — such as dust, pollen, some mold spores, and
animal dander — and particles that contain dust mite and cockroach
allergens. But because these particles settle rather quickly, mechanical
air filters are not very good at completely removing them from indoor
areas. We recommend coupling HEPA air purifiers with HEPA vacuum cleaners
for ultimate allergen reduction.
Electronic air cleaners
, such as electrostatic
precipitators, use a process called electrostatic attraction to trap
particles. Ion generators, or ionizers, disperse charged ions into the
air. These ions attach to airborne particles, giving them a charge so
they can attach to nearby surfaces such as walls or furniture, or to one
another, and settle faster.
Portable air cleaners
generally contain a fan to
circulate the air and use one or more of the air-cleaning technologies
discussed above. They may be an option if a home is not equipped with a
furnace or a central air-conditioning system. Many portable air cleaners
have moderate to large air delivery rates for small particles. However,
most of the portable air cleaners on the market do not have high enough
air delivery rates to remove large particles such as pollen and
particles that contain dust mite and cockroach allergens from