Asthma is a chronic lung disease that affects roughly 25 percent of urban children. Symptoms of asthma include difficulty breathing, coughing (especially at night), wheezing, insomnia and irritability. Cold-like symptoms, including sneezing and headaches may also be present.
Asthma can be triggered by a variety of factors found in the home, including dust mites, pet dander and mold. A HEPA filter in your home can help eliminate some of these common triggers.
About HEPA Filtration
HEPA stands for high efficiency particulate air. HEPA air purifiers work by forcing air through screens with tiny pores, removing the particles in the air. HEPA air purifiers are very effective at filtering the following asthma triggers:
- Cockroach debris
- Pet dander
- Tobacco smoke.
To qualify as a true HEPA filter, the filter must be capable of removing 99.97 percent of particles 0.3 microns or larger from the air. True HEPA filters are costly and generally are only capable of cleaning a single room. HEPA filters that are capable of cleaning the whole house are available, but are usually prohibitively expensive.
HEPA-type filters are popular among consumers and more budget-friendly. They use the same technology as true HEPA filters, but they are not as effective at removing particles from the air.
Many types of vacuum cleaners now come with HEPA filtration. These vacuum cleaners tend to be more effective than regular household cleaners at removing allergens from carpets and other surfaces.
HEPA filtration is also available in respirator form. A HEPA respirator is worn over the mouth and nose to protect the wearer from breathing in hazardous material such as poisonous gases or paint fumes.
Benefits of HEPA Filtration
Asthma can be triggered by poor air quality and a number of air particles found in the home. HEPA filters are very good at removing asthma triggers, particularly dust, mold spores and pollen.
In addition to asthma, HEPA filtration can also be of use to household members who suffer from:
- Airborne allergies
- Allergic bronchitis
- Animal allergies.
HEPA Filters vs. Air Purifiers
Air purifiers, on the surface, appear to be very similar to HEPA filters. They use a fan to draw air from the room. They then clean the air and send it back out into the room. Air purifiers are very good at removing chemicals, tobacco smoke and other odors from the air. However, they are not effective at removing particles like pollen and mold spores.
By contrast, a HEPA filter uses a mechanical purifier to actively remove particles from the air. For this reason, it is much more effective than air purifiers at removing asthma triggers such as dust and pet dander.
Buying a HEPA Filtration System
True HEPA filtration systems are not cheap. So if you’re considering buying one to help with your asthma symptoms, it’s important to know exactly what your requirements are.
Make sure the HEPA filter is large enough for your needs. Generally, a HEPA filter will only clean one room, but you want to make sure that the filter is large enough to clean the air in the entire room. You can check the HEPA filter’s effectiveness by checking its clean air delivery rate (CADR). The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers rates HEPA filters according to their CADR.
Ask the salesperson to demonstrate how to clean the filter. Some devices will be easier to clean than others. Also, test the noise level in the store. Many HEPA filters include a fan, which can cause a problem with noise. Find out what types of particles, if any, the filter is incapable of removing. For example, some HEPA filters work very well on dust and pollen but are incapable of removing pet dander.
ClearFlite Air Purifiers Staff. (2008). Air purifiers and air purifier solutions from ClearFlite. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the ClearFlite Air Purifiers Web site: http://www.airpurifiers.com/Â
Klein, N. and Sicklick, M. (2007). HEPA filters. Retrieved March 22, 2009, from the Your Total Health Web site: http://yourtotalhealth.ivillage.com/hepa-filters.html?pageNum=1#1