Are There Any Health Risks Associated with Using a HEPA Filter?

HEPA filters have been around since the 1940s, designed to protect workers at nuclear facilities from inhaling radiated particles in the air. Today, they are used in both vacuums and air purifiers to reduce the amount of airborne allergens and pollutants in the home. But are there any health risks associated with using a HEPA filter?The answer is no. While it is true that HEPA filters do release a very small amount of fiberglass particles into the air, their overall effect on the human body is negligible.

Some air filters, under the right conditions, can effectively remove certain respirable-sized particles (for example, tobacco smoke particles). These invisible particles are a cause for concern because they can be inhaled deep into the lungs. Removing these particles can reduce the associated health effects on exposed people. These effects can range from eye and lung irritation to more serious issues, such as cancer and decreased lung function. Fortunately, the airborne particles that cause allergy symptoms are relatively large in size and are easily trapped by a HEPA filter.

The Department of Energy (DOE) specifies that the HEPA filters used by DOE contractors must be able to remove 99.7 percent of airborne particulates of 0.3 microns or more, but there are no federal or national regulations for the consumer industry. According to the EPA Guide to Home Air Filters, the use of HEPA air filters in portable air purifiers and HVAC systems can help reduce symptoms of allergies and asthma. Since allergens enter the home through open doors and windows, a single drafty window can let in millions of airborne particles. HEPA filters do not guarantee the removal of all allergens. If your home doesn't have a forced air system or if you're looking for something for your workplace, Sublett and Edwards recommend a portable air filter that has a built-in replaceable HEPA filter. By purchasing a HEPA air purifier that contains additional filters, such as a carbon filter and a prefilter, the unit will remove a maximum amount of contaminants from the air.

Data shows that fiberglass filters can shed more fibers than synthetic filters. Although the amount of particles released by both types of filters is very small, Smart Air chooses to use synthetic fibers to reduce the risk. Some people are concerned that the fibers in the HEPA filters will come off, enter the air, and enter people's lungs. While they can be good filters, they haven't been tested or certified to meet the DOE standards for HEPA filters. Users should not assume that an air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter will fully protect them from infection. In an attempt to control COVID-19 and reduce airborne transmission rates, air purifiers equipped with HEPA filters can play an important role when used in homes and public environments, such as waiting rooms.

A whole-house HEPA air purifier connects to the main trunk of a home's HVAC intake duct and filters out harmful contaminants every time the oven or air conditioner is running. A HEPA filter labeled “True HEPA” or “Absolute HEPA” has been tested and meets high efficiency criteria. By using these types of filters in both vacuums and air purifiers, users can reduce their exposure to airborne allergens and pollutants in their homes.