The Healthy House Institute® online educational center has released its Top 3 Healthy Home Scams . These include:
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This includes claims that a product, such as an air purifier, protects indoor air quality by eliminating a contaminant, such as dust or pollen.
This is misleading because air is a complex, dynamic “fluid” containing hundreds or thousands of substances – particles and gases – mixed together, and just eliminating particles (e.g., airborne dust, pollen or mold fragments) from air passing through the purifier does not necessarily mean indoor air is healthier, as it may still contain unwanted elements.
With regard to what a filter does remove from the air, look for the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) that tells how much air is being filtered. Air cleaners or purifiers need to be sized for rooms they are in, because a small unit may not be moving enough air or removing enough particles to make any difference in air quality.
Remember, removing particles does not usually affect gases or VOCs that require a different type of filter media (e.g., adsorption filters such as activated carbon or charcoal).
2. The VOC Scam
Claims for air purifiers with adsorption filters “eliminating VOCs” or products being “low-VOC” are misleading for similar reasons.
VOC claims for air purifiers
“Cherry-picking” claims for particular VOC removal, does not mean other VOCs (perhaps more harmful ones) are filtered out using a particular air purifier model.
Right-size air cleaners for rooms they are in, because a small unit may not be moving enough air or removing enough VOCs to make a difference in air quality.
Look for the Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) that tells how much air is filtered, and which pollutants. Note also how often the filter needs changing.
VOC claims for products
Claims for “low-VOC” products are everywhere, but be careful because manufacturers can mislead when stating VOC-ingredient levels and VOC-content versus VOC-outgassing levels (what a product contains versus what it releases).
For example, a product may be low in certain VOCs but high in others, or a product may have low VOCs compared to other offerings but still outgas an unhealthy amount.
One rule of thumb is that if a product has an odor, it is off gassing something.
Remember, some VOCs are odorless, so do your homework, especially if you are sensitive to chemicals in indoor air.
Good ventilation usually helps if there is a source of fresh air.
3. The Green Cleaning Scam
Green cleaning scams today are fewer because certifying bodies exist (such as Green Seal, UL Environment, etc.) that help separate green products from good “paint jobs”.
Remember, if a product has a fragrance, it is polluting the air.
Even “green formulas” may contain harmful chemistries, just less harmful.
Be careful and informed, use good ventilation, minimize chemicals – green or otherwise – and adopt a prevention rather than removal strategy (e.g., install large entry mats to keep harmful matter out, use water and microfiber, water-based interventions such as dry steam vapor, etc.)
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