Tuesday, November 13, 2018

With Wildfires Becoming the 'New Normal' How to Protect Your Indoor Air

credit:  @alealexkruk

Take a deep breathe.  It is not very often that we stop to think about what we are breathing in, yet we do it over 20,000 times every day.  The reality is that the air we breathe is not always as pure as we would like to think it is.  Usually, the air is full of pollution, fragrances, cleaning products, paints, allergens, dust, pollen, mold spores, and, as is the case this particular week in California where I live, smoke from wildfires,  as well as a long list of other stuff that can actually affect our health and our young children's health in both the short term or long term.  

There are various reasons someone might consider buying a portable air purifier at home.
  1. If you live in an area where air quality/pollution is an issue(more on that below).  
  2. If you or someone in your home frequently works  with certain art materials (paints, glazes etc) which give off dangerous volatile organic compounds (VOC's)
  3. if you live near an agricultural area where pesticides are often sprayed
  4. if you are remodeling or are moving into a recently built home
  5. mold problems
  6. Allergy sufferers (seasonal, pets, cigarette smoke etc)

Because this week in Southern California, so many communities have been facing serious, life threatening, wildfires I want to specifically talk about how these wildfires can affect the air that everyone, both near and far, breathes in.  

As climate-change fuels increasingly large and frequent wildfires that hit closer and closer to densely populated urban centers, like the Woolsey fire in Malibu currently burning, the smoke they produce is becoming a public health crisis.  Furthermore, its also becoming the new “ abnormal” ( as the LA Times penned this week), every year residents of California are faced with the same heartbreaking reality.

Fires like these bring anguish, loss, death, anxiety but they also bring unhealthy levels of PM2.5 into the air we breathed- even, sometimes, hundreds of miles away from the actual fire.  These are very small bits of liquids and solids suspended in the air, no bigger than 2.5 micrometers across. Particles this small can be inhaled into the deepest recesses of the lungs, into the broccoli-shaped alveolar sacs, where they bypass the body’s filtration systems and slip directly into the bloodstream.  What is inside of the tiny particles vary (depending on what is burning), what matters for our health is the actual amount of particulate matter in the air.

The more PM2.5 in the air the more troubling. Breathing will start to feel more difficult, and you might get light-headed. Children, older people, pregnant women (especially their fetuses) and those with respiratory illnesses such as asthma and COPD are particularly at risk of smoke-related health problems.  Breathing in a lot of PM2.5’s can lead to serious long-term health problems.

If your nearby communities are facing less than ideal air quality levels there are things you can and should do to protect yourself and to protect, especially, young children and babies, pregnant women and people with respiratory issues.

1.  Stay indoors

2. Get an N95 Mask if you have to be outdoors
3.  Buy an air purifier for your indoor air.

Not all air purifiers are created equal.   I have done extensive research and these are my recommendations.  I find it important to point out that sometimes the most aesthetically stylish air purifiers being mentioned in social media have no scientific backing to what they claim they can do.  When making an investment like this for your health make sure you pay attention to independent testing more than how a purifier looks.


If you have decided that an air purifier can help your family, it is important to understand that not all air purifier are created equally. Even some well known brands don't live up to their claims. Air purifiers are not considered medical devices and thus they are not regulated.

 We have two top of the line air filters and I am amazed at how often I have used them since I purchased my first one 8 years ago! During our 3 years living in Mexico City with a newborn we decided to purchase one, which we still own, use and recommend.

This year we purchased our second one after moving into our remodeled house.  Even though we chose many green construction options some things  escaped my picky eyes and the off gassing from our window frames, moldings and custom bathroom cabinetry led us to purchase a second air filter specifically to filter out VOCs.

 For this guide (and for my own purposes when I decided to purchase a second filter a couple of months ago) I did some new research- here are the the top air filters in 2018 (which include the 3 I have used/have).


There are two types of filters that are important in a quality air filter: 
  • HEPA filter: HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate absorption, and to meet the government standard for this label, the filter must remove 99.97 percent of particles in the air that are 0.3 micrometers or larger.  HEPA filters are best for removing  most bacteria and allergens (such as dust, pollen, and mold).  It cannot  clean the air of odors, smoke, fumes, or chemicals.
  • Charcoal/CARBON filters:  designed to filter out odors, smoke, fumes and other chemicals.  The heavier the carbon filter the better the filter will be at removing chemicals.  Most well known air filters today contain HEPA filters, not all contain carbon filters.  If you are chemically sensitive or need to remove odors, smoke, fumes or VOCs you should make sure your filter of choice contains a substantial carbon filter.

Blueair Classic 203 Slim HEPASilent Air Purification System, Allergy, Hay Fever and Dust Reducer, Small Rooms 237 sq. ft., White

 (the first filter we purchased 8 years ago)

  • The Blueair 403 comes with or without the SmokeStop filter.  The granulated activated carbon in the 403 SmokeStop provides a broader filtration range for little additional expense, so you might want to consider the slight addition in cost.  
  • This it the one we have at home
  • Cleans rooms up to 370 square feet
  • HEPA filtration system: HEPASilent® technology captures 99.97% of particles down to 0.1 microns
  • super quiet operation at low setting
  • extreme energy efficiency, ENERGY STAR qualified
  • one of the highest Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) on the market, which means it will move air more quickly as it cleans.
  • considered 'stylish': Winner of Excellent Swedish Design award and a permanent spot in Stockholm's National Design Museum
  •  have to switch filters every 3-6 months
  • heavy: 43 lbs
  • $$$ 

2.  IQ air

If money is not an issue or if health is a serious concern, then the IQAir [GC MultiGas Air Purifier] Medical-Grade Air [HyperHEPA Filter] - Odors, Smoke, Allergies, Pets, Asthma, Pollen, Dust, MCS; Swiss Made  is for you.
I don't own the IQ air but did use it recently during a water filtration problem we had in our new house that resulted in mold.  It was lent to me and we used it before, during and after the mold was dealt with and during the work on the wall.  I loved it- but it is huge.  I would recommend for people who have serious allergy problems.


  • -  IQAir's revolutionary HyperHEPA filtration system is proven to capture particles 100 times smaller, down to 0.003 microns; the smallest particle that exists. 
  • - V-5 Cell™ chemical & odor filter contains 5 lbs of coal-based activated carbon and potassium permanganate impregnated alumina
  • - HyperHEPA® filter exceeds HEPA standard - passes the world’s most stringent HEPA filter test EN1822, 99.95% efficient at 0.22 microns, 99.5% efficient at 0.16 microns
  • - 6 fan speeds
  • High powered yet quiet fan motor can cover large or small areas effectively. Swiss quality - built to exacting specifications in Switzerland.
  • -  only replace the filter that needs replacing, saving you money in replacement costs over the life of the product.
  • - Integrated filter life monitor takes all the guesswork out of filter replacement.
  • - Very low energy consumption.


  • Size (it's very large)
  • Initial cost (the long-term ownership costs are relatively low though, due to the modular filter design, long lasting filters, and top quality components use)
  • - quite loud in the highest setting

Austin Air

The Austin Air Standard Healthmate HM400 Air Purifier B400B1, Black  this year (2018) tested number one for VOC elimination in various independent tests.   It contains both a HEPA and carbon filter.

I would recommend for chemically sensitive and people who have a need to remove smoke, fumes, VOCs.  This is the filter we purchased in white after moving into our new, remodeled, home.


  • - massive 15-pound activated-carbon filter bested all other air purifiers by a wide margi
  •  FEMA and the Red Cross chose Austin Air units for deployment at Ground Zero and the surrounding areas in the aftermath of 9/11
  • - cleans areas up to 700 sq feet (the 'normal' not junior model cleans larger areas)  
  • -This can help to remove sub-micron particles and other forms of chemicals and noxious gases:  including pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, chemical gases and other harmful substances from the air


  • - a bit loud on the highest setting but not too loud in medium or low setting.
  • - $$$

4.  Airocide - NASA Air Purifier for allergies, asthma and chemical sensitive individuals with Odor control - NASA Air Purifier for allergies, asthma and chemical sensitive individuals with Odor control 

This relatively new technology for the home was developed by NASA and is FDA approved. It has been available and used by NASA and various large corporations (including, reportedly,  Whole Foods) for about 12 years.  Today,  I would say this is my favorite option due to design, although price is steep.   

  • No filters needed. The filtration system, its maker says, was first designed for NASA, to remove ethylene from the space shuttle so astronauts could grow food on long missions.
  • Airocide rids the air of virtually 100% of harmful pathogens by eliminating them completely, including the main allergy triggers: mold, fungi, pollen, dust mites, viruses, bacteria, and VOCs
  • compact size only weighs 9 lbs 


The Coway AP-1512HH Mighty Air Purifier, White air filter received top marks from various reviewers and testers online.   IT seems to be the best value for your dollar - an ideal choice for those looking for an air filter to help with allergies (pollen, dust ect).

  • - compact size, light and easy to move around
  • - modern design
  • -quiet
  • - energy efficient
  • - Services rooms up to 361 square feet
  • does not filter chemical pollutants like pollen, dust, cigarette smoke, chemical gases and other harmful substances from the air

1 comment :

  1. Honeywell Launch so many Home Air Purifiers "TO PROTECT YOUR INDOOR AIR"

    Visit Honeywell Smart Home website - https://www.honeywellsmarthomes.com/air-purifiers/