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Household Air Purifiers Improve Heart Health of Those with COPD

New study from Johns Hopkins finds that installing air cleaners leads to higher heart rate variability levels

Holden Galusha

Holden Galusha is the associate editor for Lab Manager. He was a freelance contributing writer for Lab Manager before being invited to join the team full-time. Previously, he was the...

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New research from Johns Hopkins Medicine indicates that using household air purifiers can significantly benefit heart health, namely by increasing heart rate variability (HRV) levels, among other markers of cardiovascular health.

The results of Johns Hopkins’ CLEAN AIR project, which aimed to investigate the effect of indoor air pollution on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), initiated the study on if purifiers can help those with COPD. The new study demonstrates that using air filtration units to decrease pet dander, mold spores, and other particulates leads to improved markers of heart health across the board, most notably an increase in HRV levels.

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To conduct the research, 85 adult participants from the parent CLEAN AIR study, all of whom were diagnosed with COPD, were recruited. Their homes were sampled for air quality and, on average, each home had higher pollution levels than what is considered healthy to breathe by the Environmental Protection Agency. Forty-six random participants were given two portable air purifiers with HEPA and carbon filters, while the remaining participants were given placebo purifiers with no filters.

The researchers tracked all the participants’ heart and lung health for six months, administering clinical tests at the one-week, three-month, and six-month periods including blood pressure measurement and echocardiograms. Participants also wore heart rate monitors for one full day during each testing period to measure their HRV.

By the end of the study, all participants with filtered purifiers showed improved heart health, especially HRV levels, which increased by 25 percent on average. Meanwhile, participants with placebo purifiers showed no common change in HRV levels or other markers.

Finding ways to alleviate COPD can be very beneficial. According to the NIH, “COPD affects more than 15 million adults” in the United States. Most cases of COPD are the result of smoking, and smoking indoors increases others’ exposure to second-hand smoke. By installing purifiers to clean the air of secondhand smoke, those with COPD may experience better outcomes and less harsh symptoms.