Tips for choosing indoor air cleaner for effective indoor smoke removal in California

The California Air Resources Board continues to receive inquiries about portable air cleaners from those impacted by recent wildfires. In an effort to ensure that consumers are able to identify safe, effective air cleaners that will reduce their exposure to smoke and smoke residue, CARB wants to make more people aware of its list of certified air cleaners and other resources available on its website.

Air cleaners on CARB’s certified list are confirmed as safe and legal for sale in California. These are the only air cleaners that can be legally sold to Californians, as they meet CARB’s portable air cleaner regulation, which places a limit on the amount of ozone the air cleaners can emit.

CARB recommendations for finding an effective air cleaner are available. Guidance for selecting higher efficiency filters for central heating and air systems is also included.

“Air cleaner models that are not listed on our certified list may emit high levels of ozone, a known air pollutant that is the main component of smog, and cannot be sold legally in California,” said Peggy Jenkins, manager of the Indoor Exposure Assessment Section in CARB’s Research Division. “We caution folks dealing with smoke issues not to be taken in by aggressive marketing approaches from companies trying to sell noncertified air cleaners.”

Tiny airborne particles are the primary health concern for those exposed to fire smoke. These particles can be inhaled and deposit on the surface of the deeper parts of the lung, where it can induce tissue damage and lung inflammation.

CARB indoor air cleaner recommendations:

  • Choose a mechanical air cleaner with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter because it collects even very small particles well and does not emit ozone or other substances that can be harmful. These air cleaners can dramatically reduce indoor particle levels, in some cases by more than 90 percent.
  • Thick charcoal beds or filters in the air cleaner, especially those with certain coatings, can also help remove some gases produced by fires. This may be helpful for those dealing with odors and for sensitive groups such as older individuals with pre-existing health conditions.
  • If your air cleaner of choice includes an ionizer, UV bulb or other technology in addition to a HEPA filter, be sure it is on CARB’s certified air cleaner list. If it’s on the list, you will know that any ozone it emits is within safe limits.
  • Both particle and charcoal filters in air cleaners should be checked frequently and changed as needed. Owners’ manuals usually indicate the normal replacement frequency; more frequent replacement may be needed during fire smoke conditions.

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