The History of Air Purifiers

It may surprise many people to know that the concept of air purification, and products designed specifically to bring about such an effect at home and in places of work, has been around for a long time. The Industrial Revolution has been credited by history with creating thousands of jobs and turning hitherto slow, unproductive economies into huge commercial successes; this was also the time, however, when coal (used for heating and to power machines) became the reason behind ubiquitous clouds of air-fouling smog. Across cities in all industrialized nations, history also tells us, people were suffering because of the concentrated amounts of heavily polluted air.

Charles and John Dean (1823), wanting to help out firefighters who were forced to enter burning infernos, often succumbing to the soot and toxic fumes, invented a mask that allowed them to breathe while fighting fires. This mask helped to filter toxic air. John Stenhouse (1854) then came along and improved on the technology by introducing a charcoal-based filter design. John Tyndall (1871) further improved on the advancement by introducing a respirator. In fact, we have firefighters to thank for much of the air purifier technology today since these devices were originally developed for them (as well as for divers and mine workers).

The biggest leap in air cleaning technology came with the invention of the HEPA air filter (a highly effective device which continues to evolve to this day). Standing for “high efficiency particulate air,” HEPA was actually developed, ironically, to protect soldiers and scientists from the radioactive particles that were expected to be created from atomic bombs. Needless to say, this top-secret plan did not produce the desired effect but it did provide an air purifier that was capable of removing microscopic and potentially harmful air particles such as pollen, pollen, pet dander, mold, bacterial, and other airborne pollutants.

Mansfred and Klaus Hammes in 1963 developed an air filtration system that greatly improved air quality in homes in Germany (this being the first example of such a device for home use). In the same year, the US passed the Clean Air Act, which set the tone in terms of air quality expectation standards across the nation. This law would set the stage for air quality advancement for years to come; it formally recognized the harmful effects of everyday pollutants such as pesticides, building materials, perfumes, cleaning products, cosmetics, etc.

Although HEPA filters have been around since WWII, the technology has had to evolve in order to be feasible, affordable and justifiable for home use. In the beginning, for example, HEPA filters were bulky and expensive to produce. For these and other reasons, they were originally only used in drug manufacturing facilities, hospitals, research labs, and computer chip manufacturing facilities.

As air filtration technology improved, so did the commercial viability of air cleaning products. Companies like Incen AG, IQAir North America, Austin Air Systems, AllerAir, and Blueair, little by little, capitalized on the new changes each introduced to the air purification technology. Special cleaning-air filters, for example, were introduced into Mercedes Benz models in 1990. Soon after, the same company (IQAir) introduced the H13 HEPA filters which were able to trap 100 times more pollutants than previous HEPA filters.

In 1991 Austin Air Systems tackled the issue of environment particulate contamination, unhealthy odors, and chemical toxicity in a manner not seen before. For one thing, they introduced the concept of a pre-filter, which extended both the life and efficiency of HEPA filters. They also developed a 360 degree air intake system which greatly improved air cleaning efficiency.

In the ensuing years the problem of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) was addressed. Like chronic fatigue syndrome, MCS has not been fully endorsed by the medical community, but that is not to say that allergies and other medical problems (like asthma) are not recognized as being either caused or worsened by air pollution. As a matter of fact, the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has named indoor air pollution as being one of the top 5 public health threats against Americans.

Today, highly advanced air purifiers are allowing the cleaning of pollutants hitherto thought to be inescapable. From the beginning capable of trapping particles, today’s air purifiers can also deal with toxic gases, as well as microscopic allergens and pollutants. The future will probably bring further advances that may one day create indoor environments for most homes comparable to air quality found in clean, outdoor environments.

Read Next: Top 5 Reasons Why You Should Purify Air

Reading next