Air filters might help keep the air in your home fresh, but a new review finds they don’t appear to reduce your risk of catching an airborne virus.

Technologies designed to make indoor spaces safer from infection are not effective in the real world, researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK argue.

The team analyzed data from 32 prior studies in which air treatment technologies were tested in real-world setting like schools or nursing facilities.

“The kinds of technologies that we considered included filtration, germicidal lights, ionisers and any other way of safely removing viruses or deactivating them in breathable air,” said lead researcher Dr. Julii Brainard, from the University of East Anglia’s Norwich Medical School.

The pooled data revealed that the filter systems did nothing to keep people from catching airborne respiratory or GI infections.

“In short, we found no strong evidence that air treatment technologies are likely to protect people in real-world settings,” Brainard said in a university news release. “The combined evidence was that these technologies don’t stop or reduce illness. “

“Our findings are disappointing — but it is vital that public health decision makers have a full picture,” Brainard added.

The study was published Nov. 16 in the journal Preventive Medicine.

The researchers did note that all of the studies in their review dated from prior to the pandemic. None of the studies of air treatment started during the COVID era have been published yet.

“Hopefully those studies that have been done during COVID will be published soon and we can make a more informed judgement about what the value of air treatment may have been during the pandemic,” Brainard said.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about ventilation in buildings.

SOURCE: University of East Anglia, news release, Nov. 16, 2023