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Could The Use Of Air Purifiers Make Our Schools Healthier and Safer?



Here in the UK, air purifiers and ultraviolet light are being tested in schools in a pilot scheme to tackle the spread of viruses in confined spaces.

Thirty elementary schools in one region are taking part in the Government funded research project.  Depending on the results, this scheme could be scaled up to operate nationwide.  The devices have the potential to combat and fight against viruses in schools while also cutting absences because of colds and flu.  In addition, they could well improve the air quality for those students with allergies, asthma and hay fever.

The research is being carried out by the Centre for Applied Education Research (CAER) in a combined effort involving the Universities of Leeds, Bradford and York as well as Bradford Council and the Department for Education.

How do air purifiers work?

Purifiers are used to improve air quality indoors by removing particles from the atmosphere such as dust, allergens and contaminants.

  • They work by a system of filtration or by using ultraviolet light to clean the air which passes through them.
  • High efficiency particulate air purifiers use fans to draw in polluted air, which is then passed through a filter - usually made of fiberglass.
  • After the filtration, the air is pumped back into the room.
  • The filters in such purifiers need to be replaced regularly.
  • UV purifiers use short wave ultraviolet light to cleanse the air, also using fans to first suck air into the machine.
  • This air is then exposed to a UV lamp which breaks down the chemical bonds formed between DNA molecules of any viruses, bacteria or fungi present and killing them.

Air purifiers vary considerably in cost but those being trialled in the UK schools retail at about $500.

Are there other benefits from using air purifiers?

The filters that remove particles above a certain size from the air have the added benefits of removing nasty air pollution particulate matter as well, helping children with asthma, hay fever and more.

Professor Mark Mon-Williams of the University of London (leading the research project) points out that there is another very large prize on offer which is that many children miss school because of various airborne illnesses.  A successful outcome means there is an opportunity to tackle two problems simultaneously.

The scheme will start this September when data will start being collected and analysed.  It will run for the duration of the next school year.

Could air purifiers help in our homes too?

The quality of the air in our homes is important too so there is every reason to consider putting them in our homes to sanitize the air - which may well include pollutants, allergens and toxins. 

The exact particles removed via an air purifier ultimately depends on the type of purifier you choose. Certain versions are made with filters to trap particles as air runs through them, while others may neutralize other particles in the air without filtering them first.

Air purifiers can act in conjunction with air filters

When used together, they can help to get rid of: 

  • Allergens - those substances that can lead to adverse immune responses, namely allergies or asthma.  Pollen, pet dander and dust mites are among the most common airborne allergens.
  • Mold  - this can become especially dangerous for people with asthma and other lung conditions. Air purifiers may work to some degree, but filtration is far more effective in getting rid of mold in the air.
  • Smoke - filter-equipped air purifiers may remove smoke in the air - including smoke from fires and tobacco smoke.  

Indoor toxins can also include cleaning products, personal care products and other items.  Ideally, reducing the use of these should be encouraged to make our homes safer.





EWG’s Healthy Living Home Guide: Air filters. (n.d.).
ewg.org/healthyhomeguide/air-filters/ - (Accessed August 8, 2021)

Rice JL, et al. (2018). The feasibility of an air purifier and secondhand smoke education intervention in homes of inner city pregnant women and infants living with a smoker.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5929467/- (Accessed August 8, 2021)

Sublett JL. (2011). Effectiveness of air filters and air cleaners in allergic respiratory diseases: A review of the recent literature. DOI:

Vijayan VK, et al. (2015). Enhancing indoor air quality: The air filter advantage.
ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4587002/(Accessed August 8, 2021)