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Not all air purifiers clean the air

January 18, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
We all want to breathe clean air. That's why the market for portable air cleaners is so big. Americans spend nearly half-a-billion dollars a year on air purifiers or air cleaners. The companies try to pitch their products as being good for our health. But do these devices really work?Consumer Reports tests air purifiers in a sealed chamber. A measured amount of dust is forced into the room, followed by cigarette smoke. To see how well each air purifier works, the machine measures the levels of particles in the air over the course of half-an-hour.

Included in the tests were two units that are designed to clean the air with the help of ozone. Consumer Reports found they do a poor job of removing smoke and dust, and they emit very high levels of ozone.

"Ozone is not something you want added to the air you breathe, especially if you have a respiratory problem. It can aggravate asthma and reduce lung function," said Rico de Paz of Consumer Reports.

Consumer Reports has named "Not Acceptable" the EdenPure Area Model and the EcoQuest Fresh Air for use by homeowners.

Rico de Paz also tested air purifiers from market leaders Oreck and Sharper Image. The Sharper Image Hybrid GP Germicidal Air Purifier is $500 and the Oreck tower, the XL Professional Air Purifier, is $700. Neither rated good at cleaning the air.

A much less expensive air purifier did a much better job and earned top-ratings. It's the Whirlpool Whispure (model number AP45030S) for $230. It uses only a filter to clean the air, so it doesn't emit any ozone at all.

And how about the claims many air purifiers make that the unit is "antibacterial" or that it "kills microorganisms?" Rico checked by collecting samples of the air and sending them off to a lab to be cultured. The tests showed the air purifiers that promise to reduce germs do.

Although the top-rated Whirlpool doesn't make an anti-bacterial claim, it does just as good a job.

Consumer Reports says before you get an air purifier, there are a number of things you can do to clean the air in your home that can be more effective and don't cost a dime. They include simple things like opening windows whenever possible, and removing carpets.


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