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Deborah Birx joins company that makes air cleaners which emit hazardous byproducts.

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Some of the air cleaners emit ozone or hydrogen peroxide. The CDC urges caution.



Birx joined the Dallas-based ActivePure Technology as chief medical and scientific advisor, the company announced earlier this month. According to an investigation by Kaiser Health News, the company built its business making air purifiers that emit ozone, a disinfectant that can damage the lungs and exacerbate asthma when inhaled.


Though the company’s technology has evolved over the years and its marketing now repeatedly claims “no chemicals or ozone,” it still sells ozone-emitting air cleaners. In an interview with KHN, ActivePure Technology CEO Joe Urso said that ozone-emitting air cleaners account for 5 percent of the company’s sales. Several of its products cannot be sold in California, which banned the technology due to the health hazard.


The company’s non-ozone-emitting products are also troubling. Some of its portable air cleaners release hydrogen peroxide and other reactive oxygen species to try to rid air and surfaces of infectious germs, including SARS-CoV-2.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention specifically warns consumers to “exercise caution” with these types of cleaners. In general, there’s an absence of “peer-reviewed evidence showing proven efficacy and safety under as-used conditions,” the agency says. Substantiating this point, Urso told KHN that the safety and efficacy of its products had mainly been tested in lab conditions, not real-world settings.

Into the wild

The CDC explains that the air cleaners are not proven to be effective in actual rooms and classrooms, having a “less-documented track record when it comes to cleaning/disinfecting large and fast volumes of moving air within heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems or even inside individual rooms.”


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