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Published: Thursday, 6/15/2006

Summer Allergies? An Indoor Air Cleaner May be Part of the Solution

(ARA) - During summer allergy season, many of us start thinking about the quality of the air we breathe outdoors. But are we considering indoor air quality as well? According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air may be four to five times more polluted than outdoor air. And with Americans spending nearly 90 percent of our time inside, we often take indoor air quality for granted.

The average home has 72 trillion allergens floating in the air. "No matter how hard or how often you clean, those tiny little particles can get into your loved ones' lungs, triggering allergies, asthma and a variety of other respiratory ailments. Fortunately, an indoor air cleaner can be an effective part of the solution in making the air inside your home better for everyone, including allergy and asthma sufferers," says John Spengler, Ph.D., professor of environmental health and human habitation at Harvard's School of Public Health.

You can reduce allergy and asthma triggers in your home by repairing insulation and cracks to reduce dampness, using mold-proof shower curtains to discourage mold growth, covering your mattresses and pillows with allergen-proof covers, and washing bedding weekly in hot (130 degree) water to minimize dust mites. Indoor air cleaners can enhance these efforts by removing invisible airborne particles and allergens that you don't want in your air. But with several different options, how do you know which indoor air cleaner to choose?

How to evaluate indoor air cleaners

Many products claim to clean your indoor air, but there are a few reference points that can tell you which ones work best. A good place to start is by comparing the clean air delivery rates of various air cleaner systems. Clean air delivery rate refers to the amount of clean air that a filtration system can deliver to your home. This national standard recognized by the EPA reflects not only the effectiveness of the filter, but also the amount of air going through the filter. The higher the clean air delivery rate, the more effectively the room or home can be cleaned of airborne particles.

Clean air delivery rates vary widely depending on the type of air cleaner you choose. For example, a typical ionic in-room device has a clean air delivery rate of 10, meaning that it successfully cleans only 10 cubic feet of air per minute. By comparison, standard 1-inch filters, which attach to a furnace, are rated at 12. Typical room HEPA appliances are rated at 150, while electronic whole-house air cleaning systems can be rated anywhere from 660 to more than 1,000.

Whole-house systems, in addition to offering the highest clean air delivery rate, can offer substantial benefits over in-room devices. Unlike portable devices which clean only a small area at a time, a whole-house system ensures clean and comfortable air throughout the house. Plus, it tucks neatly out of sight as an attachment to your central heating and cooling system.

"Using a high-efficiency filtration system, which treats all the air inside a home, will fundamentally alter the quality of air in a home because it is substantially more effective at removing microscopic particles," says Dr. Spengler.

When comparing air cleaners, be sure to ask your dealer or retailer to provide the clean air delivery rate for various models. Other factors to consider when making your decision include the cleaner's operating and maintenance costs and the average energy consumed for the amount of air cleaned.

Courtesy of ARA Content



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