Activated Carbon

Activated carbon has been referred to as the miracle filter media because of its unique ability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOCs), ozone, toxic chemicals and odours from the air, as well as offensive tastes, odours and impurities from water and other liquids. It is also the preferred method for the removal of carcinogens from the air, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It has been used for decades in military gas masks to protect soldiers from harmful chemical gases and is administered orally by hospital emergency rooms as an antidote for poisoning and overdoses.

Activated carbon is essentially charcoal that has been treated with oxygen to open millions of small pores between the carbon atoms, creating an enormous surface area. In fact, one pound of activated carbon has a surface area of 60 to 150 acres! When used in an air purifier, this super-porous material behaves like a sponge and traps harmful airborne gases, chemicals and odours, which stick to its surface through a chemical process known as “adsorption.” Due to the large surface area of the carbon granules, carbon filters excel at trapping gases and chemicals that are small enough to pass through traditional HEPA filters.

activated carbon

For many people, allergens such as pollen, dust or pet dander are the main respiratory irritants, with chemical adsorption of volatile organic compounds and other gases of lesser concern. In this case, HEPA filtration alone may be sufficient. However, most people will benefit from the enhanced protection provided by a wide-spectrum air purifier that not only offers outstanding particle removal, but the control of odours, chemicals and toxic gases as well. Read more about toxic gases in your home.

The effectiveness of an air purifier on gases and chemicals depends on two factors: the amount of activated carbon it contains, and the “depth” of the carbon bed. Activated carbon adsorbs to its surface, so when it reaches saturation level, it is no longer effective and must be replaced. Naturally then, large amounts of activated carbon will last far longer than smaller amounts because of the greater surface area for adsorption, particularly when contained in a deep bed to create more “dwell time.” Some off-the-shelf or substandard air purifiers have only a few ounces of carbon dust sprayed onto a mesh filter that can be depleted in a matter of weeks, making the unit useless. High-quality air purifiers contain 15 lbs. of activated carbon or more, offering 12 to 60 months of effective chemical adsorption.

In some room air purifiers, activated carbon is mixed with other minerals or impregnated with additional chemicals to enhance its ability to remove specific compounds. For example, zeolite can be added to the carbon mix to help remove ammonia and ammonium compound odours like pet odours and urine. Activated carbon treated with potassium iodide is particularly good for people with chemical sensitivities, because it improves the air purifier’s ability to adsorb formaldehyde, which is found in carpets, wood paneling and furniture. Fragrances and chemicals in household cleaning products can also be removed, making the environment more comfortable for those with respiratory issues.

Selecting an air purifier that combines the powerful advantages of activated carbon and HEPA filtration will go a long way towards improving the general quality of the air in your home, office or business. Let Modern Alchemy Air Purifiers help you choose a unit with the right activated carbon mix to handle your specific air quality needs.

See our great selection of high-quality HEPA and Activated Carbon air purifiers from AllerAir, Austin Air, Blueair, Epurair and IQAir

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