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Molekule Review: Better Than HEPA Purifiers?

Molekule Review: Better Than HEPA Purifiers?


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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.
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Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.


Read our Editorial Guidelines to learn more about what makes our site the premier resource for online health information.

Disclaimer: None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice. This article is the opinion of the writer(s), and is presented for informational purposes only. We recommend that patients follow their doctor’s guidance in regard to indoor air quality.

The Molekule is an air purification device that’s won many awards and claims to destroy over 99% of airborne COVID particles. The company claims that their device destroys pollutants rather than collecting them on filters, suggesting this is a more efficient system than traditional air purifiers.

In this article we’ll review whether Molekule is superior to traditional air purifiers based on published medical research, assess whether air purifiers are even necessary, and analyze Molekule’s COVID claims.

Is Air Purification Even Needed?

Air purifiers are expensive, so before purchasing one it makes sense to determine whether they provide a clear health benefit. 

Even in developed countries, indoor pollutants are “significant contributing causes of human diseases,” according to a medical review published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in 2020.

The study authors found that volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone, toxic metals and nitrogen oxides are all common pollutants that negatively affect indoor air quality. They’re caused by a variety of factors, such as use of gas stoves, building materials, mold, paints and more.

Indoor air quality tends to be worse than outdoor air quality on average. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the U.S. reports that indoor air is in the range of 2-5x more polluted than outdoor air on average. This will vary based on location, as pollution is quite localized.

The EPA maintains a database of outdoor air quality that’s searchable by ZIP code, which may be a valuable resource to American citizens.

Medical research clearly indicates that air purification can provide a benefit if it can reduce indoor pollutant levels, since indoor pollution is significantly worse than outdoor pollution. This research also suggests that opening windows as much as possible throughout the day could be a free way to improve indoor air quality.

Does Molekule Work?

The Molekule air purifier has been proven effective at reducing levels of various contaminants in independent tests. They contracted with an independent research laboratory called Aerosol Research and Engineering Laboratories based out of Kansas, as well as various university laboratories, to conduct their testing. Independent testing is the gold standard for product research, as it reduces bias compared to in-house testing.

The Air Mini+ purifier is proven in independent research to achieve the following:

  • 99% reduction in SARS-CoV-2 (the virus responsible for COVID-19 infection) in 1 hour
  • 84% reduction in smoke levels after 22 minutes
  • 59% reduction in formaldehyde (a VOC) in 8 hours
  • 98% reduction in paint fumes in 3 hours

The Air Pro purifier is proven in independent research to achieve the following:

  • 81% reduction in formaldehyde in 8 hours
  • 99.99% reduction in an RNA virus in 30 minutes

Clearly Molekule devices are effective at reducing indoor pollutants. The Air Pro appears more powerful and more effective than the Air Mini+, and would be a better choice for whole-house or larger rooms. Molekule indicates that the Air Pro is approved for up to 1,000 square feet.

How Does Molekule Work?

Molekule leverages a technology called photoelectrochemical oxidation (PECO) that destroys pollutants, rather than trap them like standard High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters.

Theoretically, this system is more effective than HEPA filters because it can reduce levels of gaseous contaminants which HEPA can’t.

Below is a video Molekule published explaining how their PECO technology works:

Is Molekule More Effective Than Other Air Purifiers?

We’ve established that Molekule is effective at reducing indoor pollutants, but so are many other air purifiers. Especially given the relatively expensive prices of Molekule purifiers ($849.99 for the Air Pro at the time of writing), consumers ask us whether they’re worth the extra cost.

Consumer Reports tested the Molekule and compared its efficacy to other air purifiers. They ranked it 45th out of 48 air purification devices, and stated that their research indicated the Molekule wouldn’t be very effective in rooms larger than 100 square feet.

Wirecutter, which is a review publication run by the New York Times, also ranked Molekule as the worst air purifier they tested. They tested the Molekule Air device, and found that it was less effective than standard air purifiers. The Times actually got Molekule to retract statements of efficacy about their device after submitting a complaint to the National Advertising Division.

Given that two research organizations tested the Molekule directly against other air purifiers and found it to be relatively ineffective, we would not recommend the Molekule over any of the top HEPA air purifiers.

Which Air Purifier Do We Recommend?

We recommend the Alen BreatheSmart 75i True HEPA Air Purifier, as it received top marks in ConsumerReports’ independent testing.

Not only is this device proven to be effective at removing contaminants, it’s also more energy-efficient than most air purifiers. Its energy and filter costs per year are $140 based on ConsumerReports data, which is a fraction of the maintenance costs of many other models.

The Alen BreatheSmart 75i also scored well on noise tests, which is important because some air purifiers can be loud. Since they’re typically running 24/7, most consumers want a model that’s relatively quiet.

Molekule Pros and Cons

Even though we don’t recommend the Molekule device, it can be useful to weigh some of its pros and cons for consumers still considering a purchase.

Pros:

  • Novel technology
  • Future models may outperform HEPA filters
  • Sleek design
  • Can destroy COVID virus

Cons:

  • More expensive than average air purifier
  • Less effective than average air purifier
  • Made questionable health claims then removed them after NY Times investigation
  • May not be effective in large rooms

Molekule Team

Molekule was founded by scientists, which is a good sign for a medical device brand. Their About page details their origin story. One of Molekule’s founders, Dr. Yogi Goswami, is a university professor of chemical, biological and materials engineering which is highly relevant to the company he built.

His daughter Jaya Rao is the CEO of the company, and she has a Master’s of Science degree in chemical engineering from Stanford.

We believe it’s important for consumers to be aware of the founding team of a health products company, and teams with scientific experts in relevant disciplines is a good sign of a quality brand.

Molekule Vs. Dyson

Dyson is one of the most popular air purifier brands, so consumers are often curious about which company we believe makes better air purifiers.

Dyson’s purifiers are about half of the cost of Molekule, so that’s a clear benefit.

As far as efficacy, there have been no head-to-head tests between the two companies. ConsumerLab gives Dyson air purifiers poor scores, but not as bad as Molekule.

Both devices are likely to have some benefit, but we would recommend Dyson air purifiers over Molekule because they’re significantly cheaper and we haven’t come across any research suggesting that Molekule is more effective.

Stay up-to-date on our research reviews

Conclusion

Buying an air purifier for the home seems like a logical choice for consumers who can afford it, given that indoor air quality is worse than outdoor air quality even in developed nations.

Molekule developed a novel device with interesting technology, but it appears to be less effective than standard HEPA air purifiers. We’re curious to track the development of future Molekule product releases, because their technology is theoretically more efficient than HEPA filtration, so with some refinement it could potentially outperform regular air purifiers.

For now, we don’t recommend any Molekule products.

We recommend the Alen BreatheSmart 75i True HEPA Air Purifier as it scored top marks in independent testing for efficacy, noise and energy-efficiency.

Consumers who can’t afford air purifiers should consider simply opening their windows as much as possible during the day, because this free ventilation can improve indoor air quality.





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