Air Purification: Separating Fact from Fiction

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is becoming top-of-mind for many organizations and building owners/operators as they look to create healthier, safer building environments following the COVID-19 pandemic. Just last week, the White House held a Summit on Indoor Air Quality to encourage organizational leaders to pledge to improve their IAQ to help keep building occupants safe.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of confusion in the marketplace surrounding IAQ and the proper ways to keep your building occupants healthy and safe. Air treatment is still a relatively new industry that uses complex measurements without a unified government standard, which can make products difficult to compare. The pandemic has also accelerated the number of new companies joining the air treatment industry, leading to increased competition and unsubstantiated marketing claims from some companies seeking to capitalize on the public’s new focus on air quality.

We cannot physically see the difference between treated and untreated air, so we must rely on tests, metrics and claims to make responsible choices about improving IAQ. So, how can you separate fact from fiction?

If you’re looking to invest in air purification as part of improving your organization’s IAQ, here are some of the common misleading marketing claims to look out for:

In reality, the best approach to improving IAQ includes multiple elements. Ventilation is part of the mix, but it’s not the exclusive solution. One of the best approaches, according to a recent Lancet COVID-19 Commission report, is to combine air purification with commissioning building systems, ventilation and improving HVAC filters to MERV 13.

Many product claims contain reference to lab tests, but not all tests are created equal. Studies that occur in a lab may not always capture real-world conditions—this is especially true for air treatment products that deploy UV light in an existing HVAC system.

In a lab, it’s possible to create conditions where UV light irradiates COVID-19 and other viruses at a short distance. In the real world, however, air is always moving through an HVAC system and is not easily contained near the UV light. Indoor air purifiers with H13 True HEPA filters, like those made by Fellowes Brands, are tested in real world work conditions*.

When shopping for an air purification system, be sure to ask these questions:

  • Has it been independently laboratory tested?
  • Where were these tests conducted, and what were the conditions for these tests?
  • Did it effectively eliminate COVID-19 in a real-world test setting?

It’s tempting to buy fewer air purifiers based on a manufacturer’s claims on square foot coverage as a way to save money, but what appears to be an opportunity for cost savings may really be a problem in the making.

EPA guidance states that you should have a minimum of three to five air changes per hour (ACH) in your space. Many manufacturers claim their system can cover a large amount of square feet in one hour, but that means that the air in the room is only completely changing once in that time. If a system is only able to achieve one ACH, then it means the system is undersized and more coverage is needed.

You can check the math pretty quickly against claims you see in marketing for air purifiers:

Ceiling heights play an important part in determining room coverage of an air purifier: A room with a 12’ ceiling vs an 8’ ceiling has 50% more air that needs to be cleaned. Keep in mind when purchasing air purifiers that you will want to exchange the room’s air five or more times per hour.

Investing in air purification as part of your organization’s IAQ strategy is a critical step in improving the health and wellbeing of building occupants, so take the time to ensure you’re asking all the right questions before you make your purchase:

  • Does the air purification system filter air through multiple steps, including a pre-filter that captures large particles, carbon filter to capture odors and VOCs, and a H13 True HEPA filter?
  • Has it been independently laboratory tested?
  • Is the system capable of effectively purifying the air in a space your size?
  • Does it continuously monitor air quality and adapt to room occupancy and noise levels to provide maximum protection on demand?

With so many new air purification products in the industry, be sure to work with an established manufacturer that can be a trusted partner, giving you the peace of mind that you’ve chosen a supported solution to the ongoing challenge of improving IAQ. If your organization is ready to improve your IAQ, contact Fellowes to learn more about air purification and steps to take to provide healthy air for your building occupants.



*Fellowes AeraMax Pro air purifiers demonstrated, through independent laboratory testing, to be effective in eliminating aerosolized concentration of SARS-CoV-2 by 99.9999% through a single air pass test of the purifier. In addition, AeraMax Pro air purifiers reached 99.99% airborne reduction of a surrogate Human Coronavirus 229E in a 20m3 test chamber within 1 hour of operation in a separate test.