Consumer Reports’ Poor Testing Methods Cause Popular Magazine to Recommend Inferior Products
When a respected consumer product review magazine does not properly test and evaluate a product category, their product recommendations can actually be a disservice to consumers. According to IQAir North America, this is the case in the October 2005 issue of Consumer Reports where the magazine includes an article titled “Air Cleaners: Some Do Little Cleaning.” In this article, Consumer Reports venerates poorly designed room air cleaners, giving them top recommendations, and fails to recognize the vastly superior air cleaning ability of IQAir’s HealthPro Plus. The HealthPro Plus is recognized by numerous product testing agencies and product reviewers around the world as the top room air cleaner available for home use.
The question of why the HealthPro Plus is not Consumer Reports’ top recommended product is no mystery to air cleaning experts. The problem stems from Consumer Reports’ adoption of a flawed and outdated testing protocol originating from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM), a trade association that promotes the interests of their members. There are five major flaws to Consumer Reports’ air cleaner testing that result in misleading recommendations to consumers.
First, Consumer Reports fails to inform consumers that they do not actually test air cleaners for particle removal. Many of Consumer Reports’ top ranked products use electrostatic or ionizing technologies which add an electric charge to airborne particles which causes them to temporarily adhere to a nearby surface. In the testing chamber, this temporarily attracts the particle away from the detection area of the particle counting equipment, but when the electric charge dissipates those particles can quickly become airborne again. Consumer Reports’ does not distinguish between particles permanently removed by the air cleaner and charged particles that are temporarily attached to test chamber surfaces through ionization. The HealthPro Plus cleans the air by filtration only, permanently removing particles from the room — never to become airborne again.
Second, Consumer Reports only tests for an air cleaners’ ability to affect the largest 20% of airborne particles (particles larger than 0.1 microns), but approximately 80% of all particles are smaller than 0.1 microns. Scientists agree that it is these ultra-fine particles that present the greatest health risks to consumers because they can penetrate deeply into the lungs and reach every cell of our bodies. Many room air cleaners sold to consumers have poor efficiency for ultra-fine particles. The HealthPro Plus is certified to filter ultra-fine particles down to 0.003 microns with a guaranteed minimum efficiency of over 99.5%. This is 30 times smaller than the smallest particle tested by Consumer Reports. The HealthPro Plus has the highest efficiency at filtering ultra-fine particles of any room air cleaner.
Third, Consumer Reports fails to test room air cleaners for their ability to remove gases and odors. Gases and odors contribute significantly to potentially unhealthy indoor air pollution. Not testing for gas and odor removal significantly disadvantages air cleaners that contain considerable gas and odor filtration technology. This is because gas filters notably reduce airflow during the Consumer Reports test. Most of the 30 air cleaners tested by Consumer Reports are advertised as being effective against gases and odors, but only two of the air cleaners tested contain significant gas and odor filtration. Many consumers want effective gas and odor filtration, and the HealthPro Plus has the most comprehensive gas and odor filtration that is available for home use.
Fourth, Consumer Reports fails to inform consumers that the entirety of their air cleaner evaluation is based on testing the air cleaner for a period of only thirty (30) minutes. Air cleaning experts have long been aware that poorly designed air cleaners lose much of their effectiveness within a few days of use. Long-term testing would reveal the inefficiency of electrostatic precipitators and ionizers as air cleaners. It would also demonstrate the problems inherent in air cleaners that use synthetic HEPA instead of mechanical HEPA. Mechanical HEPA filtration has been the technology of choice in critical environments, such as hospitals and cleanrooms, for decades. Although air cleaners with synthetic HEPA filters have a higher initial airflow in a testing chamber, they have been demonstrated to significantly lose efficiency and re-release particles over time. The HealthPro Plus’ patented HyperHEPA filter features advanced mechanical HEPA that never loses efficiency, even 10,000 hours into use, and it never re-releases particles.
Lastly, while Consumer Reports scorns some air cleaners for producing ozone, they backhandedly recommend other air cleaners that also produce significant amounts of ozone. Consumer Reports appears to take the stance that some degree of ozone production is acceptable in room air cleaners. IQAir shares the belief of the American Lung Association that air cleaners should not produce any amount of ozone. The HealthPro Plus is certified to produce absolutely no ozone.
Most of the air cleaners tested and recommended by Consumer Reports would not be deemed acceptable to be used in hospitals and other critical environments due to the unrealiability of their technology and their poor long-term performance. The IQAir HealthPro Plus is used around the world in the most critical of air filtration applications. The Hong Kong Hospital Authority, after testing dozens of other room air cleaners, found the IQAir HealthPro Plus to be the only room air cleaner suitable to be used in the fight against SARS. Consumer Reports needs to recognize that consumers use room air cleaners for an equally important health environment — their homes. Consumers deserve air cleaner evaluations at the same high standards used by hospitals and other critical environments. If Consumer Reports adopts higher testing standards, they will soon realize they have long recommended poorly designed room air cleaners. They will also discover that the IQAir HealthPro Plus is the very best room air cleaner available to consumers today.
IQAir North America, Inc. is a member of the Swiss based IQAir Group that develops and manufactures state of the art air quality products for indoor environments. IQAir products are used worldwide by hospitals and other critical environments. IQAir also manufactures home air cleaners for allergy and asthma sufferers and individuals with chemical sensitivities. IQAir is an American Lung Association educational partner on indoor air quality issues.