Study: air filters ineffective in preventing airborne virus spread

air filters

ANGLIA: Air filters, commonly used to maintain indoor air quality, may not reduce the risk of contracting airborne viruses, according to a new review conducted by researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK.

Despite efforts to enhance safety in indoor spaces, technologies designed to mitigate infection risk were found to be ineffective in real-world settings, the study suggests.

The researchers examined data from 32 previous studies that assessed air treatment technologies in practical environments such as schools and nursing facilities.

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Lead researcher Dr Julii Brainard from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School explained, “The kinds of technologies that we considered included filtration, germicidal lights, ionisers, and any other way of safely removing viruses or deactivating them in breathable air.”

Analysis of the compiled data revealed that the air filter “treatment technologies”, including filtration systems, did not demonstrate significant efficacy in preventing the transmission of airborne respiratory or gastrointestinal infections.

“In short, we found no strong evidence that air treatment technologies are likely to protect people in real-world settings,” Brainard stated in a university news release. She added, “The combined evidence was that these technologies don’t stop or reduce illness.”

While the findings are described as disappointing, Brainard highlighted the importance of providing public health decision-makers with a comprehensive understanding of the effectiveness of these technologies.

The study, published on November 16 in the journal Preventive Medicine, acknowledged that all the reviewed studies predated the COVID-19 pandemic. No studies on air treatment technologies initiated during the COVID era have been published yet.

Brainard expressed hope that studies conducted during the pandemic would be published soon, allowing for a more informed assessment of the value of air treatment in the context of the ongoing global health crisis.

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