Those bipolar ionizers used in classrooms and other environments to fight COVID-19 might not do as much as we thought they did.
For those unfamiliar, these systems use ions which are supposed to create “coagulation,” or particles of opposite charges coming together in a clump which then capture things we don’t want to enter the lungs.
They’re also supposed to affect surface proteins that viruses use to enter living cells.
But according to a recent Ars Technica article, air quality experts say there’s not much evidence to back up the high COVID deterrence claims made by manufacturers of these machines.
More from the report:
Most air-cleaner makers, including AtmosAir, rely on controlled tests that demonstrate how ionization eliminates viruses found on surfaces, which has little bearing on how well ions clear the air.
Frustrated air-quality scientists say the industry is making a play for funds that should go to simpler, proven improvements to school ventilation.
Ionizers in particular have a history of producing byproducts, including ozone, formaldehyde, and other volatile compounds, that can damage the lungs.
Dozens of districts have purchased ionizers using Cares Act funding, as well as other chemical air-cleaning treatments.
What IT should do
Keep in mind: the science is still unclear about these systems’ relative effectiveness in every situation. If anything, the report backs up the claim that these machines might be useful for other air pollutants like mold.
But in order to reliably battle COVID spread, schools should continue to open windows where possible and consider installing physical filters which meet ASHRAE certifications.
For more information about the use of these ionizer machines and their relative effectiveness in classroom environments, I really recommend you read the full article linked above. It’s very in-depth.