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In a rollercoaster conversation, Charlie Park, global category director of environmental care at Dyson, said Dyson air purifiers can kill viruses and bacteria, like COVID-19. But he followed it up with a pretty big ‘but’ that means you absolutely should not rely on air purifiers to keep you safe from the pandemic that has so far infected millions of people worldwide.
“We have tested our machines for the removal of viruses and we’ve specifically tested it with inert versions of viruses that are a similar size to COVID-19 to ensure that we can remove those from the air,” Park said.
“Our products will safely, and capture them on our particulate filter. By the very nature of passing air continually over that filter, you effectively dry it out as well, and therefore, you end up killing the virus as a result.”
That sounds great, and is wonderful news. Unfortunately, like all good things in 2020, there is a catch. And that is that moving air around could make everything so much worse, because it could move the virus around the room more efficiently.
If the virus is indeed airborne, that’s a problem. While the World Health Organisation (WHO) is reluctant to take a hard stance on this, many epidemiologists now suspect it is. As do other health authorities.
“If you’ve got a machine that’s effectively just churning the air in the room, you can get into a situation where you’re making that room, worse. So, whilst our machines do capture viruses, I would be very cautious of anybody going around saying this is a defence mechanism or even a primary defence mechanism against COVID-19,” Park explained.
A lot of the problem comes because while, say, bushfire smoke haze is improved by an air purifier removing as many of the particles as it can, in theory you just need one virus cell to become infected. So, moving people’s germs around the room makes it more of a Russian Roulette kind of situation.
The takeaway from this advice seems to be that where possible in 2020, it’s best not to move air around a room. We’ve already seen that restaurants with fans or air conditioners are a ripe breeding ground for infection.
But, if you have to have a fan or air con on because we live in Australia and things get unpleasant, it’s best to have it either connected to or next to a high quality air purifier with a properly sealed HEPA filter, able to catch ultra fine particles to try and mitigate some of the damage.
This article has been edited for clarity around the WHO’s stance on airborne transmission.