Buying an air purifier for fine particles

Fine particle pollution, also known as particulate matter or PM, has become notorious in recent years for its negative health effects. What is fine particle pollution? How can an air purifier for fine particles protect us from the dangers it poses? Read on to learn more.

An industrial stack emitting air pollution

Fine particle pollution

Particulate matter is formed when it combines with other substances in the atmosphere. This causes chemical reactions to take place. PM is typically categorised into three sizes:

  1. PM10 – coarse particles that measure between 2.5 and 10 microns
    • Sources include emissions from road transport; industrial practices, residential fuel burning; allergens like dust, in-tact pollen grains, and moul;, and fire-burning (in agriculture and wildfires)1
  2. PM2.5 – fine particles that measure between 0.1 and 2.5 microns
  3. PM0.1 – ultrafine particles that measure 0.1 microns or less
    • Sources vary and include both anthropogenic and natural sources
    • This category has been the least researched due the need for expensive instruments and the need for standardised methods of measurement, but early studies show that PM0.1 may be more dangerous than PM2.53
Air pollutant particle size comparison

Source 2

Health issues

Due to their small size, all three types of PM can enter our bodies easily through the respiratory system (inhalation). Once PM has entered through the nose or mouth, it can gain access to other organs in the body like the heart and brain. Soluble parts of fine particles dissolve in the bloodstream; insoluble parts deposit in the lungs which leads to inflammation. Although there are groups that are more at-risk to the dangers of PM (especially children, pregnant women, and the elderly), even healthy people experience symptoms of fine particle exposure. The following list provides some of the negative health effects as a result of PM exposure:

  • Short-term (exposure of up to 24 hours)
    • Eye irritation
    • Sore throat
    • Increased hospital admissions for pre-existing conditions like heart and lung disease
    • Bronchitis
    • Increased incidence of asthma symptoms and attacks
    • Difficulties breathing or allergy symptoms like those experienced whilst experiencing a dust or pollen allergy
  • Long-term (exposure of several months to years)
    • Stunted lung function in infants and children
    • Complications during pregnancy
    • Increased risk of multiple types of cancer, especially lung cancer
    • Increased risk of contracting respiratory diseases like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
    • Premature death for people with lung or heart conditions4,5

Read more about fine particle pollution and particulate matter.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends the use of an air purifier equipped with a HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter for protection against the dangers of PM in indoor air6.

Air pollutant particle size comparison with a strand of hair

Source 8

The benefits of an air purifier for fine particles

Installing an air purifier for fine particles can provide a variety of benefits for your health. Notably, a high-quality air purifier containing a HEPA filter can reduce the risk of chronic health problems as a result of PM exposure. This can be helpful in all types of indoor environments, including the home and the office.

Reduce PM concentrations, especially PM2.5

In 2019, air pollution was declared to be the fourth leading risk factor of early mortality with PM being a huge contributing factor. At the time, it was reported to cause 6.67 million deaths as a result of all air pollution-related illnesses worldwide7.

A 2022 study undertook an analysis of the efficacy of air cleaners with HEPA filters on indoor PM2.5 concentrations. It found that air purifiers or air cleaners with HEPA filters can significantly reduce indoor PM2.5 levels to below 10 µg/m3 and can be a way to substantially improve general health7,8. Efficacy of air purifiers can depend on certain factors that should be respected, however. These include ensuring proper airflow, window ventilation whenever possible, and proper care and timely replacement of filters. The devices should also be left running for multiple hours to allow the device to thoroughly clear the indoor air of pollutants, as shown below:

Efficacy of air cleaners with HEPA filters on indoor PM2.5 concentrations

Reduce the risk of carcinogenicity to heavy metals and PAHs

Other pollutants, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and positive ions, can bind themselves to PM2.5 particles. Some of these toxic trace elements are carcinogenic, especially As, Cd, Cr, Ni, and benzopyrene. A 2015 study demonstrated the negative health outcomes as a result of exposure to PAHs and heavy metals that bind to PM2.59.

A 2022 study found that, thanks to an air purifier, all of these air pollutants, including those that bind to the smallest PM particles, can be removed from indoor air. With a high-quality air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter in smoker-free spaces, PM concentrations can even be reduced to below the levels recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO)10.

How to choose an air purifier for fine particles?

If combatting fine particle pollution is your main goal, a few considerations should be made when choosing the right air purifier for you.

Consider the filter type

HEPA filters are made to filter 99.95% of fine particle pollution down to a size of 0.01 microns in your indoor air. This includes germs, allergens (pollen, dust, mould), and fine particle pollution (PM). No other filter is designed to filter particles of these sizes. Be sure to avoid filters with the phrase ‘HEPA-type’. Although air purifiers with this type of filter may be cheaper, they do not undergo the same third-party testing that true HEPA filters do and cannot be guaranteed to filter finer PM particles.

Consider the pollution source

Your air purifier for fine particles should be placed as close to the pollution source as possible. If you are experiencing high levels of fine particle pollution (PM) in your indoor air, it may be entering through open windows or doors that lead outside. Refer to the article on our website for more on proper air purifier placement. Keep in mind that it is helpful to keep your windows closed during the high allergen (pollen) seasons!

Consider the room size

Air purifiers are built to filter the air in spaces of a given size. Larger rooms like living rooms or master bedrooms require larger-sized air purifiers. Conversely, smaller rooms like home offices require smaller-sized air purifiers. It is crucial for an air purifier to be properly sized in order to thoroughly clean the room of air pollutants.

Feel free to contact our team of air purification experts anytime for help on choosing the right model for you to combat PM! You may also refer to our Buying Guide which details all the factors to consider when considering an air purifier for fine particles.

Eoleaf's AEROPRO 100 air purifier and remote control

Resources

1 Urban Air Quality. European Environment Agency. (2022, June 16). Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/air/urban-air-quality 

2 Robertson, P. (2023, April 27). Comprendre Les différences entre les pollutions PM2.5 ET PM10. Smart Air Français. https://smartairfilters.com/fr/pm25-pm10-differences-pollution-atmospherique/

3 Abdillah, S. F. I., & Wang, Y.-F. (2023). Ambient ultrafine particle (PM0.1): Sources, characteristics, measurements and exposure implications on human health. Environmental Research, 218, 115061. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S001393512202388X

4 California Air Resources Board. Inhalable Particulate Matter and Health (PM2.5 and PM10) | California Air Resources Board. (2023). Retrieved April 25, 2023, from https://ww2.arb.ca.gov/resources/inhalable-particulate-matter-and-health 

5 International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. (2016). Outdoor Air Pollution. https://publications.iarc.fr/538 (Vol. 109). Retrieved April 25, 2023.

6 Environmental Protection Agency. (2023a, March 13). What is a HEPA filter? . EPA. https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/what-hepa-filter

7 Chen CF, Hsu CH, Chang YJ, Lee CH, Lee DL. Efficacy of HEPA Air Cleaner on Improving Indoor Particulate Matter 2.5 Concentration. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2022 Sep 13;19(18):11517. doi: 10.3390/ijerph191811517. PMID: 36141811; PMCID: PMC9516965.

8 EPA. (2018, July). Residential Air Cleaners - U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental Protection Agency. https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2018-07/documents/residential_air_cleaners_-_a_technical_summary_3rd_edition.pdf

9 Hassanvand MS, Naddafi K, Faridi S, Nabizadeh R, Sowlat MH, Momeniha F, Gholampour A, Arhami M, Kashani H, Zare A, Niazi S, Rastkari N, Nazmara S, Ghani M, Yunesian M. Characterization of PAHs and metals in indoor/outdoor PM10/PM2.5/PM1 in a retirement home and a school dormitory. Sci Total Environ. 2015 Sep 15;527-528:100-10. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.05.001. Epub 2015 May 14. PMID: 25958359.

10 Fazlzadeh, M., Salarifar, M., Hassanvand, M. S., Nabizadeh, R., Shamsipour, M., & Naddafi, K. (2022). Health benefits of using air purifier to reduce exposure to PM2.5-bound polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (pahs), heavy metals and ions. Journal of Cleaner Production, 352, 131457. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0959652622010794

Eoleaf's range of air purifiers

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