Update January 21st, 2021: We continue to produce research that is scientifically valid and executed by professionals in third-party, high-tech labs. Most recently the University of Minnesota performed testing on how Air Mini inactivates different strains of coronavirus and the H1N1 virus. The researchers involved were leaders in their field and honest explorers of the new frontiers in aerosol science, biology, and virology. While online reviews can have value, we believe it is important to have the highest quality data possible when exploring a topic as complex as indoor air quality because every room is different, every source of pollution is different, and no two air purifiers are built the same.
In the climate of the Covid-19 pandemic, scientific inquiry is more important than ever. Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, is still one of the leading causes of death worldwide and though it has dipped during the quarantine, there is still a lot to be done to leave the air safe to breathe for later generations. We implore publications like Wirecutter and Consumer Reports to embrace the latest scientific knowledge about the complexity of indoor air when they review air filtration technology. Treating every pollutant in the air equally ignores what we have learned in that past 80 years of science, and we hope they soon take a fuller range of air pollutants into account.
Original post from January 20th, 2020:
Wirecutter’s testing, and even more broadly, public discussions of air quality sensors, regulations, and testing standards, have focused on larger particulate matter, which represents only one component of what actually contributes to air quality. In particular, Wirecutter uses data from a hand held high-grade particle sensor in a home or office setting to measure the particle capture rate of the units they test, which drastically affected the validity of their2019 Molekule review.
While this is certainly one way to test air purifiers, it is not the most advanced, and it certainly does not take into account all of the modern scientific research on air quality. Wirecutter reviews only one aspect of air quality, and admitted in this now-deleted tweet that they don’t even have the means to test PECO adequately.
The tweet reads: "The entry on Molekule in the competition section of our air purifier guide is current. Right now, we're only able to evaluate true HEPA or CADR-rated air purifiers. Molekule uses their own filtration tech (PECO), which we don't currently have lab capability to properly test."
Furthermore, Wirecutter states on their website that PECO is distinct from HEPA, yet applied HEPA testing standards to the device.
The excerpt reads: "If they encounter other substances, including VOCs and airborne particles, they may react with and break up or otherwise alter them. As such, both PECO and PCO are completely distinct from HEPA filtration, which physically captures most airborne particles but does not capture VOCs or other molecular-scale pollutants. The Molekule also employs a physical prefilter to capture some particulates. We conducted the same tests on the Molekule as we did on the HEPA-filtration competitors, taking baseline readings, burning five matches to create a mass of fine airborne particulates, and then measuring the reduction in those particulates over the course of 30 minutes on all three of the machine's "speed" settings (called Silent, Auto, and Boost, akin to low, medium, and high)."
This just isn’t a complete enough approach for consumers to know whether an air purifier is going to work for them.
The testing methodology used in Wirecutter's Molekule review is too narrow because:
- It does not test for biological particles in the air, such as mold and microorganisms.
- It does not test for VOCs, and research into the health effects of VOCs suggests a variety of concerns that are very different from the effects of particulate matter. The EPA has issued a statement on VOCs’ impact on indoor air quality, showing that there are currently no federal standards on VOCs in the home but pointing out their risks.
- It does not take into account that lower air flow can improve destruction efficiency leading to cleaner air in the long run.
Taking measurements of the air other than just raw particle count is a more holistic approach to air quality. Chemicals like formaldehyde and turpentine that off-gas from furniture and other products are becoming an increasing concern and are smaller in size than what HEPA testing looks for. The viruses that Wirecutter says HEPA can’t handle were not addressed in their testing. As a result, it is unclear how Wirecutter’s recommended air purifiers perform on VOC removal at all or how they affect other measures of air quality outside of particulate matter. We offered Wirecutter laboratory space, equipment, and specialists so they could perform adequate testing, but they declined.
Molekule’s PECO technology was designed to destroy pollutants, unlike traditional filter technology that, as Wirecutter mentioned, cannot handle all of the unhealthy substances in the air. Wirecutter says that it “can’t test whether the machine is destroying things or not. But that doesn’t really matter.” We believe that all pollutants do matter, particularly the small pollutants that can pass through filters meeting the HEPA standard, and that the destruction (not just capture) of these pollutants is an approach that should not be ignored.
Wirecutter states that “Air purifiers do one thing and do it very well: remove fine particles from the air.” At Molekule, we believe air purifiers should do more than one thing, and traditional categories of fine particles are not the only pollutants that affect the air you breathe. PECO technology is specifically designed to target the broader spectrum of air quality that Wirecutter, HEPA technology, and some companies in the air purification industry have been ignoring for decades.
Wirecutter’s coverage concluded that “it doesn’t really matter” if they could test whether or not the Molekule air purifier could destroy pollutants, but that oversimplified viewpoint diminishes years of work that has been done in the field of indoor air pollution.
For more information on air quality and testing methodologies, we encourage you to read here. Additionally, as we have started to commercialize PECO technology, we are gratified by the responses of thousands of customers who have shared their belief in, and satisfaction with, our air purification technology.
Our CEO Jaya Rao weighed in on Medium about Wirecutter and Consumer Report’s review of Molekule and how relying on testing this narrow could be bad for your health.
You can see detailed particle capture data on Molekule Air and Molekule Air Mini in these reports from Intertek, the Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory.
We have also made some of our science-based laboratory testing available in this video series: