The government “ignored Sage’s advice to implement new guidelines for air purification systems”
The government has ignored advice from its Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to implement new guidelines for air purification systems to keep consumers safe.
This means that several NHS hospitals have tested air purification products that could produce dangerous levels of toxins, I can reveal.
In November, Sage’s environmental modeling group urged the government to develop “unbiased guidance” on air purifiers following a surge in sales during the pandemic.
The science body called on ministers to implement health guidelines that would ‘cut off’ marketing jargon, after data reviewed by Sage this month showed purchases of air purifiers increased dramatically since the start of the pandemic.
Air purifiers can trap common allergens and provide cleaner air, and in some, but not all, cases capture coronavirus particles.
A survey published last month by the Office for Product Safety & Standards showed that around 1 in 12 UK consumers have recently purchased air purifying devices.
Sage said official government guidelines on air purifiers would allow consumers to “identify appropriate technologies that may be effective against [Covid-19] and… explain the advantages and disadvantages of the different approaches.
But sources close to the government said I that Sage’s advice has been repeatedly ignored. Business Minister Paul Scully told MPs eight months later in July that current trade regulations are adequate to keep consumers safe.
Industry figures have raised concerns after several NHS hospitals tested air purification systems made by decontamination technology company Airora that could generate potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde and ozone.
Four NHS hospitals participated in a trial of Airora air purifiers last October, with the company’s hydroxyl radical products installed in selected wards including inpatient surgery, outpatient surgery, spine injuries spinal and waiting rooms.
Airora’s website says its air purifier “both tracks and breaks down formaldehyde, preventing its build-up and ensuring levels stay well below 0.2 ppm.” [parts per million]”.
When formaldehyde is present in the air at levels above 0.1 ppm, some people may experience unwanted effects such as burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat; to cough; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation.
Airora’s website also states that the same air purifier “produces traces and breaks down ozone,” ensuring levels stay below 0.2 ppm.
According to the European Respiratory Society, 0.1 ppm ozone can damage the lungs and exacerbate asthma.
The UK’s Health and Safety Executive says workers should not be exposed to ozone levels exceeding 0.2 ppm indoors for a specified period of 15 minutes, the short-term exposure limit. The UK does not have a long term exposure limit for ozone.
However, in the United States, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends an upper limit of 0.1 ppm ozone never to be exceeded.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires that the ozone production of indoor medical devices not exceed 0.05 ppm.
Jo Churchill, Parliamentary Under Secretary for the Department of Health and Social Affairs (DHSC) admitted last month that air purifiers using hydroxyl radical technology “can generate unwanted side chemicals that could affect health such as respiratory or skin irritations ”.
Airora has been approached for comment.
The NHS declined to comment. He declined to reveal which hospitals participated in the trials when approached by I.
PA Consultancy, the company which represented Airora at the time of the NHS trials, said I he ceased his relations with the company. He deleted all of his previous press releases mentioning his work with Airora after being approached by I.
Industry executives have warned that the lack of official government guidance on air purifiers can also put consumers at risk.
Andrew Hobbs, managing director of the air purification company Better Indoors, accused the government of being “asleep at the wheel”, and warned that a lack of official guidelines could pave the way for “sales people. snake oil “.
“It is disturbing to discover that so many consumers have purchased air purification equipment without there being impartial government guidance,” he said.
“The Department of Health has taken a fully retrospective approach to technologies that can potentially end the lockdown for good.
“By refusing to engage with this vital technology and falling asleep at the wheel, [it] could have allowed snake oil vendors to build muscle and sell questionable products to locals – including hospitals – putting us all at risk. “
This comes despite Sajid Javid’s confirmation that he “will encourage work on air extraction and cleaning systems” in his first statement to the Commons as health secretary at the end of June.
The government has faced renewed pressure to tighten its guidelines on air purifiers after leading scientists called for their deployment to the general public.
Sage member Professor Steve Reicher said last week that ministers should follow other countries’ lead and introduce air purifiers to classrooms.
“We should install ventilation in public spaces, in schools, as they are elsewhere in other countries,” he told Sky News. “In New York, they’re going to have two air purifiers in every classroom. In Belgium, they put CO2 monitors, CO2 monitors tell you the need for ventilation, in public spaces. We should be doing a lot more to help reduce infections. “
I has contacted DHSC for comment.