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Question DetailsAsked on 4/22/2017


HVAC rep recommended installation of an "Air Scurbber Plus" system based on its use by NASA

Does the use of same create other problems such as ozone change, etc.

thank you.

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1 Answer


Couple of articles/blogs on that subject that might interest you below, and one Angies List previous questions which is applicable:

Couple of things to note - and bear in mind I am not saying this product is good or bad, just pointing out some things that came to mind in reading up on it (I have not used it myself, though have used similar ones in hazardous workplace environments) and comparing the info on this unit with "snake oil" type products I have seen before.

Between info from the manufacturer in the first blog (where a company executive was responding) and the manufacturer website, it is clear that the "Air Scrubber Plus" was NOT used on the international Space Station and is not, as far as I could find, in any way "NASA approved" or used by NASA. NASA does not "approve" consumer products. It is evidently based on the technology of a purifying scrubber used on the space shuttle and space station, not to generally disinfect and clean the air but to remove ethylene to prevent botany experiments from going bad. So - not totally snake oil like some systems, but may not be any better than other possibly cheaper ultraviolet light and filter systems.

Note also the Certified Space Program certification is basically meaningless - all it means is that a company has used a TECHNOLOGY that was developed for the space program - not that NASA endorses the product, or that the actual product even does what the NASA original technology did. The Space Foundation is basically a marketing non-profit trade organization, selling certifications that comopanies can pay for to get their products "certified" - and is NOT a NASA related certification program despite the implication that it is. So - a Certified Space Program seal is probably about as meaningful as a certification of a carton of milk from The Milk Board (an industry advertising organization) - it does not in any way certify to the effectiveness of the product. For instance, the NASA technology this product uses was developed to remove ethylene from the spacecraft because it builds up and damages botany experiments - not at all what this product is using it for, and the chemisty NASA used was significantly different too.

As always, if it promises the world or is dramatically more expensive based on hype, be suspicious - may be perfectly legit or may not be in such cases, but always compare with conventional technology (HEPA filtration and HVAC airflow ultraviolet light exposure in this case) for cost, because many of these new "wonder products" are sold largely on hype, and part of the hype is pricing it way up to make it look special. Look at how effective that strategy has been for Apple with its products for example - they make 80-100% of the net profit in their product categories even though they sell only 10-20% of the products in those categories being sold on the market, by pricing their product generally at the high end of the market - it works in many cases. (Ditto to brand names versus identical generics, and fancy car names). But (though in Apple's situation I don't, as a Mac user, think this is the case), being highest priced does not necessarily make it any better or more effective, in and of itself.

Based on their website, the Air Scrubber Plus has two versions - one does use ozone, the other does not, but both evidently add ozone-equivalents and hydroxyl ions and hydrogen peroxide (a bleach and disinfecting compound - commonly the source of the antiseptic smell in medical facilities) to the air, so I know I would personally NOT be wanting to be breathing that stuff in all the time, and most certainly would not want to have a baby or child exposed to it.

Note also that the website and company-rep responses talk about the dispersed chemicals disinfecting the entire house, not just the air passing through it - yes the concentrations involved are very low compared to proven levels needed to actually disinfect. For instance, the amount of ozone needed to disinfect effectively is far above the safe unprotected personal exposure level and hundred or thousands of times the concentration the unit puts out - so I would have serious doubts about its effectiveness other than on the airflow through the unit.

One thing that scares me is they use OSHA exposure levels to say their product produces less, so is safe. This sort of product should (in my opinion) be subject to FDA testing as a medical device, since it is basically dosing the air with disinfectants. OSHA "acceptable exposure" and Permissible Exposure Limits (maximum short-term exposure limits), Long Term Exposure Limits, and TWA's (Time Weighted Averages) are all based on several premises, none of which criteria does this unit meet:

1) applies to generally healthy working adults only, not children or infants or persons with significant respiratory health issues

2) assumes approximately 2000 working hours exposure a year, not home/sleeping environments which can (especially with infants and attending adults) run from around 7000 hours a year to as much as 8000+ with individuals who spend almost all their time in the house - like many infants and many disabled/elderly persons, so the exposure time itself can be as much as about 4 times as long as the OSHA standards assume.

3) the limits consider "acceptable incidence rates" of chronic or fatal health results from exposure which most individuals would not accept in their homes - the limits are not "guaranteed safe" limits, they are ones which result in what is considered an acceptably low risk in a workplace - commonly on the order of around 1 in 100,000 cases for medical side effects or around 1 in 1 milllion cases fatalities. Not levels most individuals would voluntarily accept in their home. = - especially when you consider typical home exposure is going to be 2-4 times as long as the assumed OSHA durations.

4) Assumes expsoure only during working hours, not potentially around the clock - a lot of chemicals have more permanent and dangerous effects when constantly exposed to them than when the exposure is interrupted by long periods away from it, which is the typical workplace case.

5) Hydrogen Peroxide, as one of the chemicals released, is one of the so-called "gray zone" chemicals - commonly used but little test data is available on it because it was in general use before detailed toxicity and cancer testing was required for introduction of new chemicals - so if you read through the MSDS (Materials Safety Data Sheet) below for example, you will find it lists "not known" or "not tested" for almost all the hazard categories - not something I would be wanting to breathe in every hour I was home, for sure -

Be aware also of the typical hype on the website - the "removes up to" or "kills up to 99%" type of phrasing is a popular catchall because it promises exactly nothing - zero pecent effectiveness is even included in the "up to" catchall phrase,, which is just advertising flammery, as it is called in the trade. Without specific "average bacterial reduction" or similar data, one has no idea of just how effective this unit may or may not be - and without proof, I would assume zip.

And as the blog back and forth with the company executive said - they talk about 1500 pages of test results and a million dollars in testing, but they appear steer well away from specifically saying that testing was of THEIR specific unit (as opposed to testing for NASA's system), and they do not provide any of the documentation or data - so just saying it was tested and peer reviewed (if that is the case) does not actually tell you anything.

My take - compare comparable filtration and ultraviolet units and pricing and reviews, and judge based on those.

BTW - on the ultraviolet - you should be looking at specific data on bacteria and mold kill effectiveness, because most ultrviolet units in ducts are only marginally effective at best. Medical facility units, for instance, commonly use about 10 times the wattage and typically 3-6 feet of exposure distance to kill mold and bacteria and such - the typical 1 or maybe 2 bulb residential unit has only a fraction of the wattage or exposure time needed to be truly effective. Of course, the truly effective units cost more to install, and the roughly $50-100 each bulbs start adding up when you have 2-4 to change out every 6-12 months. (

And read up on that - both with respect to whether you need an HVAC tech at $100 range per visit to change them or you can DIY, and effective life - because as the bulbs age their emitted ultraviolet light goes down, so even if the bulb lasts (produces light) for years, normally 6 to maybe 12 months is the point where it is no longer effectively producing the killing radiation you need to kill mold and such.

Also - if going with ultraviolet - consider WHAT you are killing - are you trying to purify the air, or killthe mold growing on the A/C coil, which is a major source of major mold/fungus infestations in HVAC systems because it is usually wet during cooling operations and for some time after it shuts off.

BTW - you mentioned ozone concern - note ozone production (and hydrogen peroxide as well) not only has some documented health effects (eye and lung and mucous membrane irritation primarily), but is also a bleaching agent which can over the long term cause bleachingout of fabrics, woods, momentos, photos, etc.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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