One of the causes of air pollution is smoke and we all are aware of how harmful it is to our health. Dangers of secondhand smoke and wildfire smoke are real problems that we face, and the bigger problem is we cannot fully control the source.
In general, breathing in smoke is highly unsafe as they contain chemicals like toxic gases and particulate matters that could damage our body. More so, smoke is so nasty that the smell of it can linger in the air for days or even weeks, and the hazardous fine particles from it, particularly from wildfire smoke, can actually travel thousands of miles and that could cause health problems when it enters our body.
Think about getting asthma, bronchitis, pneumonia, COPD or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and other lung-related diseases due to inhaling polluted air. What if you live in a place where wildfire is rampant or what if your neighbors are chain smokers? Poor air quality will not only give you lung diseases but long term exposure to such is also linked to diabetes and kidney disease, fertility problems, high blood pressure, and accordingly, even Alzheimer’s. We are all at risk especially the children, pregnant women, elderly, and those who have underlying respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
Good news is there are ways we can improve the air quality of our home and one of the most widespread method is by using air purifiers. Air purifiers are made to improve the air quality of our homes by making it clean and easy to breathe. But we cannot just buy any air purifiers that are sold in the market, we should be mindful of which device is best and effective for our situation. This is because not all air purifiers contain the same features—there are air purifiers that have HEPA filters that filter air particles but do not filter the gases, while there are air purifiers that are designed to filter gases and odors but cannot filter anything more than those.
You’d think it’s quite overwhelming to finding the best one that eliminates or reduces smoke in your home. Remember, it’s situational. If you live near the sources of wildfires, don’t forget that it’s not a complete solution and should never be considered a substitute at eliminating the source of the smoke.
Now, if you think air purifier is the best way to reduce your exposure to smoke, read on to learn more about the potential dangers of smoke and what air purifiers can do.
What’s in smoke?
As mentioned earlier, smoke contains chemicals like fine or particulate matters and toxic gases and air purifiers are made to filter only either of it. Let’s have a closer look at these two major components of smoke: First is the fine or particulate matter or known as particle pollution. This is a mixture of super tiny solids and liquid droplets that are extremely harmful when they enter our body through our mouth or nose and into our lungs as these are made up of acids like nitrates and sulfates, metals, soil or dust particles and organic chemicals. They typically cause a runny nose or burning eyes, or worst, lung disease. Second is the toxic gases or known as gaseous pollutants, which includes combustion like carbon monoxide and nitrogen oxides and VOCs or volatile organic compounds like benzene and formaldehyde (known to cause cancer).
Why get rid of smoke?
While smoke is quite irritating even just by its smell that you want it to immediately disappear, there are far more serious causes that you want to get rid of it and not linger into your home.
Smoke can be very harmful to children, the elderly, and those with respiratory condition (asthma for example). Take note that if you have family members of this category, they are more at risk.
While smoke from wildfires is harmful, it is temporary. However, you should take action when it comes to smoke that comes from a consistent source, like secondhand smoke from a neighbor. The 250 harmful chemicals in tobacco smoke, 69 of which are carcinogens (benzene, arsenic, formaldehyde to name a few) should be enough reason to tell your neighbor to do their smoking a few yards away. These harmful chemicals, as a secondhand smoke, can cause in children an increased risk of SIDS, colds and bronchitis, and worsens asthma, and worse it may cause premature death for nonsmoking adults and children.
Not all air purifiers are made the same
Now that you have an idea of the components of smoke, let’s dig into the kinds of air purifiers that filter particles and/or gases.
There are four types of air purifiers: HEPA, carbon, hybrid, and PECO.
HEPA or the high-efficiency particulate air filters. This air purifier removes over 99.97 percent of particulate matter from the air. It traps smoke particles, reducing a person’s exposure to such particles. Just remember to replace filters as needed for it to be always efficient at what it does.
Carbon filters. These air purifiers can remove gases and odors, but not all. You may still need adequate ventilation and a sensor for carbon monoxide as this gas can not be eliminated by carbon filters. You might also have to regularly replace the filter as this could be easily saturated with gases. It is best to pick this kind of purifier with a high quantity of carbon.
Hybrid air purifiers. As the name suggests, this kind of air purifier acts both like a HEPA and carbon filter, filtering both particles and gases. It is however good to note that with its filters being stacked together, there is a tendency of a decreased effectiveness.
PECO air purifier. Like the hybrid, this kind of air purifier mechanically filters particles, but rather than using carbon to filter gases, it uses a chemical reaction to destroy the gases. This process, however, takes a longer time than a carbon filter does.
The ideal air purifier for each situation
Having learned the technologies behind each air purifier, let us look into each smoke situation and see which air purifier is ideal for each situation.
Wildfire smoke. As mentioned, this is mostly temporary or short-term. Particulate matters are the major concern in this type of smoke, and a HEPA filter can pretty well address this issue. However, if you want to address both the particles and gases, your best option is the PECO air purifier.
Secondhand tobacco/wood smoke. This particular smoke usually comes from the neighbors who are smoking or burning wood nearby, and the smoke drifts inside your home. This is a low level of exposure to smoke and could be addressed by either a PECO air purifier or a hybrid one. This is to eliminate both the particles and gaseous pollutants.
Tobacco or wood smoke. In this scenario, the smoke from a tobacco or wood (example, burning wood in a wood stove) is generated from inside the home. With this high level of exposure to smoke, there really is no ideal air purifier to clean out the air in this kind of situation. The best you can do is to smoke outside and replace wood stove.
Taking care of that smoke odor
Another lingering concern with regards to smoke is the smell. The ideal air purifier for the smoke odor could be the carbon filter or the PECO air purifier, as these air purifiers can clean out gases. However, note that smell could still linger despite using an ideal air purifier. Tobacco smoke, for instance, sticks into all kinds of materials inside the home. An old fashion comprehensive cleaning like steam cleaning carpets, rugs, and upholsteries will reduce odors. Drastic measures for smoke odors that have built up over time would be replacing the affected furniture, repainting the walls, or renovation.
Removing or eliminating the source of smoke is typically the best solution for having clean air in your home, however you may not be able to do this as often as you may think. An air purifier is your next best option, and in some cases your only option, in dealing with smoke. With your newly acquired knowledge about air purifiers, this should now help you pick the best fit for your particular situation and budget.