COVID-19 News

CDC documents efficacy of HEPA air cleaners and masking for reducing airborne COVID-19 risk

Portable, high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners can reduce airborne particles and could be used along with universal masking to offer greater protection from COVID-19, according to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To investigate the effectiveness of portable HEPA air cleaners and universal masking at reducing exposure to exhaled aerosol particles, the CDC research team used respiratory simulators to mimic a person with COVID-19 and other, uninfected persons in a conference room. The addition of two HEPA air cleaners that met the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)–recommended clean air delivery rate (CADR) reduced overall exposure to simulated exhaled aerosol particles by up to 65% without universal masking. Without the HEPA air cleaners, universal masking reduced the combined mean aerosol concentration by 72%. The combination of the two HEPA air cleaners and universal masking reduced overall exposure by up to 90%. The HEPA air cleaners were most effective when they were close to the aerosol source.

These findings, published July 9 in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), suggest that portable HEPA air cleaners can reduce exposure to SARS-CoV-2 aerosols in indoor environments, with greater reductions in exposure occurring when used in combination with universal masking.

"Portable HEPA air cleaners offer a simple means to increase the filtration of aerosol particles from a room without modifying the existing building ventilation system," the authors wrote. "The optimal location for HEPA air cleaners will depend upon the unique conditions in each room, but they are likely to be most effective when they are placed as close to the occupants as is practicable. Larger reductions in exposure occur when air cleaners are used in combination with universal masking."

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