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Can a $750 Air Filter “Destroy Formaldehyde” Even if it’s a Dyson?

Can you eradicate formaldehyde fumes with an air filter? Ben looks at an article on the Dyson filter that makes this claim!

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Most of you probably know Dyson as a popular manufacturer of vacuums, air dryers, and fans. One type of fan that Dyson offers is the Dyson Purifier Hot and Cool Formaldehyde purifying fan heater for the cost of $750 dollars American. But what is this and how does it work? According to the advertisement, is “Dyson’s most advanced filtration system combines a precise, solid-state formaldehyde sensor with a unique catalytic filter that continuously destroys formaldehyde.” But how does this work, exactly? According to an article by Engadget, the filter decomposes formaldehyde into “minuscule amounts of water and carbon dioxide,” which checks out because formaldehyde contains, oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon, accounting for the elements in those compounds. Now here’s the real question; do you actually need it? In the United Sates, we have the Agency for toxic substances and disease registry or ATSDR run by the Center For Disease Control who tells us that the typical home has  about 20 parts per billion of formaldehyde in the air, which is a pretty small amount considering that formaldehyde is made naturally by humans and their pets, and is found in paint, flooring, and furniture.

The ATDSR also alerts us to conditions that would cause to us to have higher formaldehyde levels in them: 

  • Homes with smokers 
  • Homes with new products or construction 
  • Homes built after 1990, due to the fact they are better insulated and therefore allow less air movement leaving formaldehyde in the air longer

To put it in perspective, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration sets formaldehyde exposure limits for those of us who use it. That is .75 parts per million over and eight hour time period or 2 parts per million in a 15 minute time period. This are know as the permissible exposure limits and short term exposure limits respectively. Imagine if you will; a swimming pool filled with 1 million marbles, and 3/4 of one is colored blue to represent formaldehyde. Over an 8 hour period, we can have a continuous exposure to that amount. Over a 15 minute period, we can be exposed to two blue marbles. Now, these amounts are much larger than the 20 parts per billion a normal house has, and as the ATSDR notes, you would be able to tell when your home approaches toxic formaldehyde levels because you can smell it. Those of us who work formaldehyde regularly know that it is pretty obvious when you are being exposed. 

But there is certainly no reason not think about ways to reduce formaldehyde exposure because it can be an irritant, and some people maybe allergic to it and not even know it until they reach a certain level of exposure. So how do you reduce formaldehyde in your home?

  • Open the windows for a few minutes everyday 
  • Use exhaust fans 
  • Keep temperature and humidity in your home at the lowest comfortable setting 
  • Don’t smoke inside 
  • Choose home products with low formaldehyde 
  • Wash and press clothing before using them 
  • Keep products that contain formaldehyde outside in the garage to air them out

So, does all this tell us that we need to rush out and purchase the Dyson fan that contains a formaldehyde filter in it? Well, also according to the ATSDR, filters generally do not help remove or reduce the amount of formaldehyde in your home. Why? Because the levels are already low enough and the filter itself only covers a small area of your home. So for Dyson’s filter to be effective, you would need several. If you believe that you have a high level of formaldehyde, you should hire a qualified individual to come in an test your home for you if you smell strong chemical odors or if you are having symptoms of irritated breathing. Until then, spend your $750 on something more fun.


Read the Engadget article here

View the Dyson Ad here

Read the ATSDR Discussion on formaldehyde in the home 

This was originally featured on the latest episode of the Funeral Science Podcast available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and Google and reprinted with permission of the author.

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