Bacteria are everywhere. Even scientists using the most carefully sterilized equipment are often challenged by the microscopic life so ubiquitously found in everyday life. Though there are good bacteria, especially those that live in our gut, persistent exposure to particular types of bacteria can cause serious health effects and disease. Bacteria can be found swimming through liquids, floating through the air or thriving on surfaces.
There are a number of ways to combat the germs in your home, but using anti-bacterial cleaning solutions on your kitchen countertop does nothing to the bacteria drifting through the air you breathe.
Can air purifiers remove bacteria and germs from the air? Yes—but not all air purifiers are created equal. Some prove far more effective at removing bacteria than others, while other air purifiers might even exacerbate the problem.
Bacteria, Viruses, and Germs, Oh My! For those unaware, bacteria and viruses are very much different. Bacteria are single-celled living organisms, while viruses need a living host to survive. For the sake of simplicity we are using the term “germs” as a catch-all for both bacteria and viruses, so you may see these two types of pathogens mentioned together throughout the rest of the article.
Bacteria and other germs come in a variety of shapes and sizes
Bacteria can spread on surfaces, through droplets and through the air, potentially causing disease. This means that when a sick person coughs, sneezes or even talks, individuals in range may be at risk for contracting their disease.
Some of the most common airborne diseases are the common cold, influenza, chickenpox, mumps, measles, whooping cough, tuberculosis and diphtheria. These germs are spread through collections of tiny particles called aerosols – which are released through coughing, sneezing or speaking. Because of the small size of the infectious particles that compose aerosols, these particles can remain suspended in the air for minutes to hours, and are able to travel long distances at high speed. One terrible outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease was found to travel a whopping almost 4 miles from an industrial cooling tower!
According to the UK’s National Health Services and studies at MIT, aerosol from a sneeze can travel anywhere from one to ten meters. The distance the germs travel may depend on air currents and the intensity of turbulent forces from the cough, sneeze or force of diction.
Interestingly, recent studies show that viruses may even be transmitted through the breath of a sick person. In this way, no matter how careful your sick kids, coworkers or loved ones may be while covering their cough, you may be exposed to airborne viruses by the simple matter of their breathing!
Why it is important to remove bacteria from the air
It is helpful for your family’s well-being to eliminate bacteria from the air , especially in enclosed spaces like your home. When your home or office becomes infected with microscopic germs, they can become trapped and recirculate through the air. Without cleaning, persistent exposure to these dangerous germs increases risk factors for contracting diseases like influenza, mumps, whooping cough, or tuberculosis among many others.
Not only can contact with bacteria make you sick, but bacteria may be connected to problems with breathing as well. According to the EPA, some bacteria may trigger allergic reactions including hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic rhinitis and some forms of asthma.
While it is important for everyone to protect themselves from encountering infectious germs, it is especially important for sensitive populations such as the elderly, young children and those with compromised immune systems. These groups may be at higher risk for infection than healthy adults. Maintaining air quality is integral to protect the health of your family, especially when, according to the EPA, indoor air can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air.
How to prevent the spread of bacteria in your home?
Medical and health professionals recommend basic health precautions that you can take to reduce your probability of getting sick, such as covering your mouth when sneezing, sanitizing common household items and washing your hands. While these precautions can help protect you from surface and droplet contact with bacteria, they may not be able to help with strictly airborne transmission of bacteria.
Instead, as airborne transmission is also an important vehicle for the spread of bacteria and disease, cleaning the air can be considered as a part of a holistic solution to staying well. Because of this, the basic health precautions as well as an air purifier can help promote health.
Depending on the type of technology, air purifiers are designed to remove airborne pollutants from the air such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs), mold, dust and pollen, along with bacteria.
Which air purifiers are best for germs and bacteria?
There are many air purifiers on the market. Here are some of the available technologies and how well they combat bacteria. Many air purifier manufacturers utilize more than one technology in their devices, so be sure you know what you are getting.
- UV-C air purifiers are designed to use the mutagenic property of ultraviolet light to sterilize airborne pathogens. Depending on the spectrum of light (UV-B or UV-C) and the given exposure time, ultraviolet light may irradiate microorganisms in an effort to damage them at the genetic level, which “inactivates” them. This does not mean they are destroyed, but rather made incapable of growing or producing the toxins that cause disease. The use of ultraviolet light as a disinfectant is widespread in hospitals, industrial water treatment plants and laboratories across the United States. When affixed to an air purifier, usually with a HEPA filter, its ability to “inactivate” harmful pathogens may vary. Unfortunately, this technology falls short when employed alone, as airborne pathogens sometimes pass through the filter too quickly to be eliminated. Not only this, but some of the UV technology produces harmful ozone as a byproduct, and vary in a wide degree of quality and reliability across the market.
- HEPA is a type of mechanical filter that comes in a wide variety of efficacy and quality, depending on the manufacturer and rating of the individual filter. They are designed to remove 99.97% of particles in the air that are 0.3 microns in diameter by trapping them in a network of fibers, and can capture most larger air pollutants and some smaller pollutants, depending on the individual filter. They are effective in removing dust, pet dander and some parts of tobacco smoke and wood smoke, but they do not remove airborne chemicals. In addition, large particles of dust and dander trapped in the fibers can serve as food for bacteria, so when coupled with moisture bacteria can grow in the dust collected by HEPA filters. Endospores produced by certain bacteria such as B. anthracis (causative agent of anthrax) are unusually tough and capable of surviving inside of HEPA filters for an extended period of time. Some HEPA filters come equipped with antimicrobial treatments, such as a silver coating, which can help prevent the growth of germs in the filter media. A primary weakness of HEPA filters is that without consistent filter replacement the filter can become a breeding ground for bacteria which can ultimately penetrate the HEPA filter and get back into your home.
- Carbon air filters use activated carbon to remove pollutants and VOCs from the air by trapping particle pollution on a charcoal bed that is cyclically disposed. However, they are unable to remove larger particles like mold, dust, or pollen, and as the carbon bed needs frequent replacement, there is danger of outgassing volatile pollutants back into the environment if the filter is too saturated. Furthermore, since carbon is a food for some bacteria and its porous nature provides a spot for them to grow, activated carbon filters might actually become a favorable environment for some microorganisms like E. coli, which pose a serious health risk to those in its vicinity.
- Ozone generators purify and freshen the air through use of ozone (O3), which is an unstable molecule – meaning it will react with everything it encounters. While it is capable of killing microbes, bacteria, and viruses, it is harmful for us too. This also means that it may have adverse effects on your health by aggravating respiratory problems, and is strong enough to kill small household pets, especially birds, which are highly sensitive to oxygen.
- Ionizer air purifiers use an electromagnetic charge to add or remove electrons to oxygen, to form oxygen ions. These ions bond to particles in the air and they are extremely bactericidal. However, this ionized air can be damaging to our lungs, and can form ozone, which may ultimately lead to respiratory problems.
- Heterogeneous photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) based air purifiers use photocatalysts under illumination of UV or solar light. Through this method, PCO technologies are designed to remove gaseous pollutants and claim to destroy microorganisms by accelerating the speed at which they decompose. However, some research suggests that the low purification efficiency of PCOs can let off formaldehyde, which is a known carcinogen.
- PECO is Photo Electrochemical Oxidation, a technology which uses filters coated with pollution-destroying nanotechnology, a revolutionary approach which is found inside the Molekule air purifier. A comprehensive approach to air quality, PECO technology has been proven to destroy volatile organic compounds, ozone and floating biological particles such as bacteria, viruses and mold spores. These dangerous substances are destroyed through a process utilizing free radicals, which chemically changes pollutants at the molecular level to transform them into safe gases like carbon dioxide and water vapor. The unusually tough endospores we described earlier are no match for PECO as well, with independent lab results showing PECO reducing microorganism concentrations by 99.99%.
An air purifier is a necessary, critical component of any air quality regime
Overall, air purifiers are an integral component to the health and well-being of one’s home and can play an important role in combating tricky airborne bacteria. Depending on the type of air purifier you choose, you may be able to destroy certain type of bacteria and reduce the likelihood of these germs propagating through your home. Additionally, air purifiers can be a critical component in removing other disease-spreading particulates, like those carried by bacteria, mold and pet dander and even dust mites.
Air purifiers are especially important in enclosed spaces, such as your home or office, wherein air circulates in a repetitive, frequent way. If necessary steps are not taken to improve air quality in these spaces, disease-causing bacteria may fester and find footholds in unlikely places, especially those unreachable by antimicrobial surface cleaners.
While there are many air purifiers on the market, the PECO technology proprietary to Molekule is and remains the most effective of all air purifiers at combating bacteria. More so, unlike its predecessors, Molekule cleans the air without counterproductively producing harmful chemicals.
Reviewing the basics of battling bacteria
Air purifiers are helpful in removing bacteria from the air, so long as an effective air purifier is used as part of a holistic plan to promote the health and well-being of your home and office. Some air purifiers claim to combat bacteria, but only recent advancements in air purification technology like those overseen by Molekule founder Yogi Goswami actually succeed in independent lab tests to effectively combat airborne pathogens. Unlike other air purifiers, whose processes may aggravate the respiratory challenges faced by asthma sufferers, Molekule was invented out of Dr. Goswami’s need to alleviate his son’s asthma, ultimately producing the world’s most effective air purifier along the way.
Nobody likes to get sick, and it is especially frustrating when you cannot control the quality of our indoor air.
Fortunately, our solution to dealing with germs and bacteria is simple: frequent surface cleaning with environmentally friendly antibacterial cleaners, healthy, hygienic living habits, and a Molekule air purifier to ensure no quarter is given to those pesky airborne bacteria. While we strongly recommend handwashing and surface disinfection as part of a regular health regimen, neither of these activities fight the pollutants swimming about in the air.
By improving the quality of your indoor air, you are taking one of the most important steps toward improving the health and well-being of your home’s occupants. That is why we recommend Molekule to perfectly compliment any space’s ambition for healthier air.