Long duration tests of room air filters in cigarette smokers' homes

Environ Sci Technol. 2005 Sep 15;39(18):7260-8. doi: 10.1021/es048951q.


Information regarding the long-term performance of stand-alone room airfilters is limited. In this study, laboratory and field tests were carried out to determine the effectiveness and performance of room filters that are easily deployed in essentially any type of house. Tests were conducted in houses containing strong PM sources, specifically cigarette smokers. Using commercially available four-speed HEPA filter units, we tested flow rate, pressure drop, and power consumption as a function of fan speed and filter loading. Filters were then deployed in four single-family homes over a 2 month period. Between 15 and 40 cigarettes were smoked daily by several smokers in each home. Occupants were instructed to continuously operate the unit at one of the higher speeds. Periodically, we monitored filter usage, fan speed, particulate matter (PM) mass concentrations, PM number concentrations, volatile organic compound (VOC) levels, and other parameters with the filter fan operating and with filters both installed and removed. The filters decreased PM concentrations by 30-70%, depending on size fraction and occupant activities, and significantly reduced the half-life of PM3-1.0. The half-life of 1-5 microm particles, CO2 concentrations, and VOC concentrations, including 2,5-dimethyl furan (a tracer for environmental tobacco smoke), did not change, indicating that occupancy and cigarette smoking intensity did not change overthe monitoring periods. Occupants generally kept the filters operating at a moderate speed. Filter air flow rates decreased 7-14% with extended operation, largely due to the loading of prefilters. Air exchange rates, deposition loss rates, and clean air delivery rates were estimated from the field data. Continuous operation at an intermediate fan speed would incur a total annualized cost of $236. While acceptance of the filters was very high, occupants might benefit from instructions and reminders to clean the prefilter and to keep the unit on. We conclude that adequately sized room air filters can substantially lower PM concentrations in smoker's homes if air exchange rates are limited and that the filters can maintain their performance over extended periods.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Air Movements
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis*
  • Chemistry, Organic / methods
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Filtration / economics
  • Filtration / methods*
  • Housing
  • Kinetics
  • Pressure
  • Smoke
  • Smoking
  • Time Factors
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / analysis*
  • Ventilation / economics
  • Ventilation / methods*


  • Smoke
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution