LG's Air Purifier Claims Raise Doubts

Why release an air purifier if it’s not proven to keep out the coronavirus?

Key Takeaways

  • LG’s new air-purifying mask hits the market during the pandemic, but offers no guaranteed protection against coronavirus.
  • The FDA has not approved LG’s mask or other high-tech gizmos for personal protection against coronavirus.
  • An expert warns this type of mask may not be any more effective than a cloth or paper mask.
Promo image of LG's new air-purifying mask
LG

LG’s announcement of its new air-purifying mask doesn’t say whether it protects against the coronavirus—and that could be a problem.

LG joins a growing list of manufacturers pumping out innovative-looking protection gear during the pandemic, but the FDA has not approved LG’s mask or other high-tech gizmos for personal protection against coronavirus. One expert warns that it’s unclear whether they’re more effective than a cloth or paper mask.

“I think there is absolutely a danger that people will assume that this will protect them against COVID, and that’s not necessarily correct,” Geoffrey Mount Varner, former medical director of Washington, D.C., said in a phone interview. “It’s essential that people can be confident about what they are getting.”

Promises, Promises

LG touts its new mask as allowing “users to take in clean, filtered air while the Respiratory Sensor detects the cycle and volume of the wearer’s breath and adjusts the dual three-speed fans accordingly.” 

The company continues, saying that included fans speed up automatically to help you bring in air while slowing down to reduce resistance when breathing out. The news release, however, makes no mention of coronavirus (though it does claim an eight-hour battery life).

Varner called LG’s mask an “interesting concept” and “a smaller version of what we use in the hospital when we see high-risk patients.”

“I encourage people to stick to the bread and butter like cloth and paper.”

N95 Masks Remain the Gold Standard

The gold standard for masks to ward off coronavirus is still the N95 mask, Varner said, and he recommends it to his patients. But the CDC’s website says N95 masks, which are designed to achieve a very close facial fit and efficient filtration of airborne particles, are “critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders.” 

If N95 masks aren’t available, the next best thing (to protect yourself) is a surgical mask, Varner said. A third choice is a mask made of cloth. One study found that multilayered cloth masks may offer increased protection from coronavirus versus a single layer. 

Cloth masks are also recommended to protect others from your own exhalations.

Many Mask Innovations

The pandemic has set off a surge in mask innovation. Take, for example, the Atmos, which claims to provide up to “50x better protection than market-leading filtration masks.” The futuristic-looking Atmos uses “fans to create a positive pressure clean air environment for you to breathe freely, requiring no seal around the mouth and nose.” It’s currently sold out.

Promo image of the BioVYZR 1.0 face shield
VYZR Technologies

VYZR Technologies offers the $249 BioVYZR, which looks like a cross between a hazmat suit and a spacesuit helmet. The company says the BioVYZR “provides a 360-degree seal to shield your personal space on all sides. It also features a built-in air purifying system to filter out pathogens, allergens, and pollutants from the air you breathe.”

The menacing, black, $199 AIR by Microclimate uses a rechargeable battery to pull air through fans. “From Uber to airline, AIR by MicroClimate will keep you comfortable the whole trip,” the product website claims. The company says it will begin shipping in mid-September. 

High Demand Despite Ability

Many new air purifying masks that have recently hit the market don’t specifically claim to ward off coronavirus, but still seem to be in high demand. A website selling the Hexa air purifier mask says it’s sold out until the end of September. 

Joya Mia’s electrical air purifier mask—sold online for $129—is advertised as “can be worn for any occasion or occupation” although in small letters the product page says, “ our face masks are not a replacement for medical-grade Personal Protective Equipment.” 

Despite their high-tech appeal, consumers should be wary of innovative masks until they’re thoroughly tested, Varner said, adding “I encourage people to stick to the bread and butter like cloth and paper.”