Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, or COPD, is the third leading cause of death in the United States, behind heart disease and cancer. The most common forms of the disease are emphysema and chronic bronchitis. About 12 million Americans have been diagnosed with COPD, and experts estimate another 12 million remain undiagnosed.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says exposure to air pollution particles may aggravate COPD and be responsible for COPD-related hospitalization and premature deaths . Recent research suggests air pollution may play a role in the onset of COPD as well . The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends reducing exposure to air pollutants at home and work to prevent early development of COPD .
The right air cleaning system can effectively remove a large percentage of the particles associated with COPD problems indoors. But the wrong air cleaner can be ineffective or, even worse, dangerous.
Here are a few tips from IQAir, the American Lung Association’s air cleaning educational partner, that will help you select the right air purifier to protect your health:
- Choose “mechanical filtration” air cleaning technology. This is the air purification technology recommended by the American Lung Association, and includes HEPA-filtration systems. Mechanical filtration systems remove particles from the air by capturing them on filter materials. The particles then remain in the filter until it is replaced.
- Don’t buy air cleaners that produce ozone. Ozone is a lung irritant that can damage the lungs, and is especially dangerous for those with COPD or other respiratory conditions. That’s why the American Lung Association and others warn consumers to avoid these devices.
- Avoid air purifiers that use ionization to clean the air. Ionizers generate ions that attach to airborne pollution particles, giving them a charge so that they then attach to nearby surfaces such as walls or furniture. Even air purifiers that combine ionizers with filters or air-cleaning “plates” can release thousands of charged particles into a room. The EPA says air cleaners that generate ions can increase the particles being deposited into your lungs and absorbed into your bloodstream .
- Do not rely only on CADR ratings. This rating system was designed and is promoted by a trade association of appliance manufacturers . Clean Air Delivery Rate, or CADR, doesn’t measure long-term effectiveness. Therefore, some highly rated air purifiers can lose as much at 50 percent efficiency in a few months. CADR also does not evaluate whether particles are captured inside the air cleaner or attached on room surfaces via ionization.
- Choose an air purifier that is proven to protect against ultrafine particles. Ultrafine particles represent 90 percent of all the particles in the air you breathe, and are considered by scientists to be the most dangerous of all. Yet they are so small most air purifiers can’t stop them. Ultrafine particles pass rapidly into the human circulatory system and reach internal organs. Individuals with COPD may be at greater risk than healthy individuals when exposed to ultrafine particles . Check with the manufacturer to verify that their air purifier can filter these tiny pollutants.
November is the American Lung Association’s COPD and Lung Cancer Awareness Month. For more information on healthy air purifier technology and related topics, please visit www.iqair.com.