Q: Some air cleaners emit low-level ozone. Is ozone harmful to pet birds? Is a HEPA filter better, or no air filter at all? What’s the best for my birds?
A: Let’s clear the air about room air cleaners! Air filters remove pollen, dust, pet dander, dead skin cells and other particulate matter from the atmosphere inside your home. Bacteria and viruses travel around by hitching rides on dust particles, and these dust particles can be removed from the air when trapped in high-efficiency filters. Air purifiers actually kill bacteria and viruses.
People are often confused when trying to choose an appropriate air filter or purifier. HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filters, ionizers, ozonators and ultra-violet purification systems are available. It helps to understand what the different systems are and how they work in order to choose the product that best suits your needs. Manufacturers of these products have extensive technical literature available upon request. Following are some explanations of various filter/purification components:
Electrostatic: A charged surface that attracts and collects airborne particles. Think “dust magnet”.
Filter: A standard filter pad traps particles, including many allergens and some gases from the air but cannot actually destroy microorganisms unless equipped with germicidal accessories. Standard filters and pre-filters must be washed or replaced according to manufacturer’s directions.
Ions, Ionizer, Ionization: An ion is an electrically charged particle. Ionizers neutralize the air by emitting a flow of negative ions that cling to positively charged particles. This increases the weight of the particles and causes them to cling to surfaces rather than remaining airborne. There is some controversy about the use of ionizers around pet birds. Consult your avian veterinarian prior to use.
Ozone, Ozonator: Ozone is a form of activated oxygen with an extra, third molecule, which attaches itself to airborne pollutants. It oxidizes and destroys bacteria, fungus, mold, viruses and mildew, leaving pure oxygen in their place. Low levels of ozone (the FDA’s safety limit is 50 parts per billion) can purify water and air. According to Consumer Reports (10/92), when room air passes through a high-voltage plate in an ozonator, some oxygen molecules are ionized. The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has set a limit of 50 parts per billion for ozone from electronic air cleaners. Some ozonators are actually marketed as ionizers, and an overwhelming amount of ozone can be harmful to a bird. There is some controversy about the use of ozonators around pet birds. Consult your avian veterinarian prior to use.
HEPA: High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration systems were originally developed by the Atomic Energy Commission to remove radioactive particles from the air. HEPA filters are used in spacecraft, industry, hospitals and homes. Depending on maintenance, proper use and the efficiency of a particular unit, HEPA filters are capable of removing close to 99.9994% of particles down to .3 microns in size (about 1/25,000 of an inch!) from the indoor atmosphere.
Ultra-Violet Light: Reduces transmission of disease by killing bacteria passing through the appliance.
Both purifiers and filters are somewhat effective in reducing odors and removing smoke from the air, but you must never rely on an air filter or purifier to remove airborne toxins or germs from the atmosphere before they affect your bird. Some air filters combine two or more of the features described above. If you suffer from asthma or other respiratory condition, consult your physician before purchasing any air-cleaning device.
Keep the air fresh and reduce pollution in your home with simple, every day routines. Curtail the use of aerosols, powders and chemicals indoors. Quit smoking. Use high-efficiency allergen filter bags for your vacuum cleaner. Purchase high-efficiency air conditioner and furnace filters. Install a range hood that vents to outdoors instead of blowing fumes back into the room. Fresh air is the best purifier of all. Open the windows for at least a short time each day. During warm weather, install a window fan blowing out. You’ll be amazed at the dust and dander it carries out of your home.