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CBS News 8 - San Diego, CA News Station - KFMB Channel 8 | cbs8.com

VERIFY: Can air purifiers protect against COVID-19?

Studies show the coronavirus is airborne and can spread more easily in enclosed spaces and air purifiers are designed to reduce airborne contaminants.

SAN DIEGO —

THE QUESTION

Can air purifiers protect against COVID-19?

THE ANSWER

Not entirely on their own, but they can help.

According to the EPA,  "When used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others, filtration can be part of a plan to reduce the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors.” 

WHAT WE FOUND

During this pandemic, we've all be stocking up on supplies in hopes of staying healthy and safe. That includes air purifiers.

But, how well do they actually protect against COVID-19?

Studies show the coronavirus is airborne and can spread more easily in enclosed spaces. Air purifiers are designed to reduce airborne contaminants.

Some experts recommend using them, especially in rooms with little to no ventilation.

Yaneer Bar-Yam is a scientist who specializes in pandemics. He's also a professor and president of the New England Complex Systems Institute.

“It's not enough to solve the problem. Even though it's reducing the particles in the air, at the same time because it's mixing the air, it might cause some of the particles to get near you before they get to the purifier," Bar-Yam said.

On its website, the US Environmental Protection Agency echoes Bar-Yam, by explaining “By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. When used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others, filtration can be part of a plan to reduce the potential for airborne transmission of COVID-19 indoors.”

Those best practices include:

  • washing your hands
  • wearing a mask
  • practicing social distancing

"You want to combine things together so you keep reducing the probability and you don't end up getting sick,” said Bar-Yam. 

Still, if you are in the market for an air purifier, are there specific things to look for when choosing? The answer is yes.

For a purifier to be effective, it must be able to remove small airborne particles. Look for one with a high-efficiency particulate air or HEPA filter.

Also, check to see if it's clean air delivery rate, or CADR certified. 

If you don't have a purifier, opening a window will help. But, being outside is safest.