The importance of reducing children’s exposure to asthma triggers is well-established. Parents know to avoid outdoor trips on days when pollen or particulate matter levels are high, but mitigating indoor exposure is more challenging. Kids spend 90 percent of their time indoors — and many of them live in poorly ventilated old homes and/or near roadways. A team from the University of Michigan and the University of Iowa wanted to determine if a consistently used HEPA filter could improve asthma health. They placed filters in the bedrooms of 126 asthmatic children in Detroit, and measured their lung function before and after the filter deployment.
Researchers were primarily concerned with air flow, a measurement of how much air passes out of the lungs. Asthma, which causes constriction and swelling in the air passages, can make exhaling difficult, diminishing air flow readings. Over time, the researchers found that the children who consistently used a HEPA filter had more air flow in the middle of an exhalation, indicating that the filter helped them breathe more normally.
Our homes, especially if they’re older construction, are filled with asthma triggers. It’s not only particulate matter from nearby roads that we need to be concerned about, but also off-gassing volatile organic compounds from household products and paints, mold from leaky pipes and roofs, and secondhand smoke. A HEPA filter, though, can help clear many of these triggers from the air. Working to eliminate them can ease chronic asthma symptoms and improve lung function.