HEPA filters have been in and out of discussions and deliberations ever since these purifiers have been in the market for industrial as well as residential use. The controversy flutters between two widespread questions. The first is “Do HEPA filters have fiberglass”?
This ultimately leads to users inquiring and questioning whether these fiberglass-containing purifiers are safe for one’s health after all.
Over the years, numerous experts and scientists have addressed this issue through various in-depth studies to resolve if Hepa filters containing fiberglass are safe to be breathed in.
- What is Fiberglass?
- Do HEPA Filters Have Fiberglass?
- Why is Fiberglass Used in HEPA filters?
- Can Fiberglass in HEPA Filters be Hazardous?
- Fiberglas Shedding from HEPA Filters
- Replacing HEPA Filters with Fiberglass
- Alternatives to Fiberglass HEPA Filters
- Final Thoughts
What is Fiberglass?
Fiberglass, sometimes referred to as glass wool, is an artificially made plastic composite. The composite is pleated and woven with glass fibers using extreme heat and special adhesives. Glass fiber is strikingly similar in looks and manufacturing process to any other glass you observe.
Like window glass or tabletop glass, fiberglass is composed by melting the glass using enough heat, then sizing them to the thinnest micron-sized particles. The material can be structured quite easily and is therefore used in a wide range of home and industrial applications. They are just about everywhere, from aircraft to insulation pipes and household appliances.
Although fiberglass is safe to use in the manufacture of appliances like a HEPA filter, cutting, chopping, or trimming the material can cause hazardous glass dust to float in the environment. This is especially true for people who work closely with fiberglass shaping or sanding.
Larger particles of fiberglass, when in contact with the skin, can cause rash and skin irritation. If swallowed, fiberglass can also cause stomach irritation and eye allergies. Temporary health problems only occur if the particle size of fiber dust inhaled or contacted is bigger than the harmless size.
Do HEPA Filters Have Fiberglass?
Yes, most HEPA filters that are available in the market and are popular do contain Fiberglass as part of a filter. Fiberglass inside the air purifiers is an efficient and budget-friendly material that cleans air thoroughly.
HEPA Filters get rid of the minutest of contaminants and impurities in the air by filtering them using 3 main filters. 2 of these outer filters work as a sieve that discards the bigger impurities. The inner fiberglass filter is densely pleated to create greater surface area and stop particles that are as small as 0.3 micrometers.
As we mentioned, not all HEPA filters are made with fiberglass. Some are manufactured using polypropene. Both these filters are equally effective in removing dust contaminants from the air, with an efficiency of 99.9, with or without fiberglass.
But does that mean glass from the glass fiber filter can fly out of the purifier and harm you? Of course not!
Why is Fiberglass Used in HEPA filters?
Although there are assumptions that fiberglass sheds from the HEPA filter can be harmful to one’s health, fiberglass HEPA filters are widely manufactured and used. This is because the glass wool composite material is successful in being an effective filter that sieves out the smaller particles. In addition to that, fiberglass is a widely available and affordable material to be used in such air purifiers.
Since the air contains moisture, filters must be made with materials that are non-corrosive. Fiberglass has the advantage of being unaffected by strong chemicals and toxins. Plus, its anti-corrosive properties ensure it is not oxidized in combination with moisture.
Besides, fiberglass is so great as a filter because of its durability and easily mendable features. Since they are produced with an energy-efficient method, the material is also sustainable and low maintenance.
Can Fiberglass in HEPA Filters be Hazardous?
Now that you know your HEPA filter probably contains fiberglass, does this mean you are doing more harm than good yourself?
In a test conducted by scientists, they turned on a HEPA filter with fiberglass for the same time period as they turned on one without fiberglass. This experiment was intended to determine whether fiberglass sheds as the air purifier works to sieve the impurities. They used a 0.4 mm gap size filter to test the shedding.
In the experiment, the scientists were able to conclude that both filters shed fibers. In the case of fiberglass, however, the shedding was almost double compared to the synthetic filter. Although the shedded fibers are extremely microscopic in size, they were still 50 times bigger than the capturing filer gap.
This means when breathing in the air with a HEPA filter in the room, microscopic particles of fiberglass are mixed in the environment. According to scientists, this particle size is not harmful and is akin to any other impurity or particle that we breathe in every day. The amount of particles is also too low to do any harm.
Fiberglass in HEPA is particularly harmful if the filter is cut or hammered to pieces. This is why companies that commercially fabricate these air purifiers warn against cutting open HEPA filters or recycling the filters for other purposes. Doing so can significantly increase exposure to fiberglass, which can harm human health and reduce the efficacy of the HEPA filter itself.
Fiberglas Shedding from HEPA Filters
On average, turning on the HEPA filter for 6 to 8 hours can produce up to 800 fibers from the filter. While that sounds like the filtered air is full of glass particles, experts say that it is well below the breathable particulate matter or PM2.5 level. This level is considered safe, as we are obliviously breathing as many particles even in the cleanest of environments.
To put it simply, HEPA filters containing fiberglass can shed glass particles every second. However, because it is so low in number and well below the official safety PM2.5 levels, the difference is negligible in terms of health hazards concerning pressing or long-term illness.
Also, the little shedding of fibers is only higher during the initial use of a new HEPA filter. Over time, the shedding decreases stably to a minimum.
Replacing HEPA Filters with Fiberglass
HEPA filters are expensive, and changing them costs you a hefty amount. To save the expense of annual filter changes, many users, both in commercial use and home use, have benefitted by installing pre-filters. When pre-filters are installed, the HEPA filters can run without replacement for 4 to 5 years.
However, when prefilters are not used, the fiberglass filters may have to be replaced anywhere every 8 to 12 months, depending on the usage of air purifier and the quality of the filters.
Alternatives to Fiberglass HEPA Filters
Many people have complained that sheds from the HEPA filters containing either fiberglass or polypropene filters add to their irritation. Sometimes, the shedding compensates for the filtering that has been done by the purifier itself.
For people suffering from serious sensitivities, allergies, or respiratory issues, safer air purifier choices are available. If filters are not replaced at least once a year, the air purifier is most likely to lose efficiency in cleaning the impurities and malfunction if too much dirt has accumulated on the filters.
Bi-Polar Ionization Purifiers
These purifiers use plasma ion technology to attract and efficiently destroy the pollutants in the air. The bipolar ionization purifiers charge particles floating in the air using ions.
As they are charged and polarized, the filters easily attract them and group them together. The microorganisms then found an ionic bond with the oxygen ions, only to be nullified.
These ionizing purifiers are not the same as ozone generators or ozone-emitting purifiers, which are considered to be harmful to people’s health. A bipolar system purifies the air without releasing harmful particles and is thus considered a safe filtering option.
UV Air Purifying System
These purifiers are popularly called UVGI air purifiers and use filter-less technology to get rid of impurities from the air. UV systems use ultraviolet light that has a shorter wavelength to destroy any pathogens or contaminants present in the air.
These filters are either sold as separate units for residential use or inbuilt into a complete HVAC system. When HEPA filters are used on an industrial scale, oftentimes, UV-C systems such as this are installed into them. Most of these lights are not visible to the naked eye but can also be detected as blue. The mechanism that this short-wave light is used to destroy microorganisms from the air is by altering the molecular structure of the organisms.
If you are among the myriad of people wondering if HEPA filters have fiberglass, you can be certain that they do. Most HEPA filters contain fiberglass, while others are manufactured with synthetic polypropene filters. Although the fiberglass in the filter sheds microparticles into the air, the number of shedded particles is well below the official safety levels.
Unless the HEPA filter is cut open or the fiberglass is broken down or sanded, there is negligible chance of these glass fiber particles effective your health or causing possible irritation. This is because we breathe in and contact with more dust particles and impurities even in open unadulterated air!