Choose your poison – COVID-19 or aerotoxicity!

HEPA filters

HEPA filters

Contrary to what we hear from the media, could HEPA filters be effective enough to protect against COVID-19?  While the whole world, not least the airline industry, is eagerly awaiting an effective solution to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we’re not sure all the hype around HEPA filters is the answer!

Contrary to what we hear from the media, could HEPA filters be effective enough to protect against COVID-19?

While the whole world, not least the airline industry, is eagerly awaiting an effective solution to stop the spread of the coronavirus, we’re not sure all the hype around HEPA filters is the answer!

Here's the reality of the situation! The size of the COVID-19 is 0.12 micrometres and HEPA filters are effective for particulate matter of more than 0.3 microns. As COVID-19 can easily pass through the HEPA filters they are not at all effective in blocking the virus. However HEPA filters CAN filter out smaller particles, such as the coronavirus if the filter is clogged, for example with the pyrolysed oil residues or nanoparticles, which create ‘fume events’ (toxic, contaminated air) in planes that can lead to serious health conditions and sometimes fatalities for both crew and passengers. Incidentally we have been raising awareness of the serious problem of fume events with the airlines and relevant authorities.

So which is the lesser of the two evils? COVID-19 or aerotoxicity?

We are hearing a lot about the replacement of cabin air in three minutes and the use of HEPA filters similar to those used in operating theatres, to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and now politicians and ministers are jumping on the bandwagon and hailing this as the knight in shining armour!

A recent Washington Post article mentions studies indicating that none of these measures can prevent the spread of the virus among passengers. If someone on board a plane with COVID-19 sneezes, the virus will reach a significant number of other passengers before they leave the aircraft, or even before the virus comes into contact with the filters, which are in the hold of the plane.


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fume events

 

Jun 09, 2020
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