Domestic air cleaners improve heart health for COPD patients

A six-month study led by Johns Hopkins Medicine has found that portable home air purifiers improve some cardiovascular health markers in those suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Also known as COPD, the illness is often defined by chest tightness, shortness of breath, and a chronic cough, with arrhythmias, heart failure, heart attack, and strokes commonly accompanying the condition, leading to one of the biggest causes of death globally. 

selective focus photography of anatomy lungs

A secondary study to the larger Clean Air Study, the new work has found that portable air purifiers, when used indoors, can improve the debilitating and potentially deadly symptoms associated with COPD. In total, 85 men and women from the wider research project, all of who were aged 65 and over and diagnosed with COPD, participated in this latest undertaking. 

‘We’ve seen that air pollution in the home, where people spend the majority of their time, contributes to impairments in respiratory health. We hypothesised this pollution is a big driver of cardiovascular disease and cardiac events in people with COPD,’ said lead author Sarath Raju, M.D., M.P.H., and assistant professor of medicine specialising in obstructive lung disease at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. 

In order to test the theory, trained technicians took air samples of indoor particulate matter of varying sizes from the homes of participants. Then, 46 randomised people were given two portable air cleaners with HEPA and carbon filters for use at home. The remainder of the group were given placebo cleaners capable of circulating air but with filters removed.

Indicators of lung health were then measured and tracked at one week, three months and six months using standard clinical tests including blood pressure and heart ultrasounds. Heart rate monitors were also worn 24-hours a day during each testing period. At the end of the study, it was found all 46 participants using the active filters showed improved health markers, including a 25% increase in heart rate variability (HRV). Those using cleaners with no working filter did not display any improvements.

HRV is a common measure of heart health as a healthy heart is constantly adjusting its rate to meet the physical needs of the body. 20 participants using working cleaners also exhibited a 105.7% increase in root mean square of successive differences between normal heartbeats, another key sign of fitness. In addition, researchers uncovered a correlation between increased ultra fine particles and poor heart health markers, including variability, concluding that more work is needed in this area. 

‘Ultrafine particles might be the most potent particles in terms of health consequences,’ said study author Meredith McCormack, M.D., M.H.S., and associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of the BREATHE Center (Bridging Research, Lung Health and the Environment). ‘These particles and other indoor air pollutants can cause systemic inflammation in susceptible patients like those with COPD. Our study shows there’s a negative impact on cardiovascular health, as well.’ 

You can read the full study here, and find out more about why indoor air quality is an issue that must be addressed urgently here.

Image: Robina Weermeijer



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Glen Zamiska
Glen Zamiska
1 year ago

I’m almost 62 and was diagnosed with COPD in 2006 I was extremely short of breath and constantly tired due to my Emphysema, I was introduced to Health Herbs Clinic and their COPD Herbal Protocol. I started on the COPD Treatment last year, my symptoms gradually diminished including my shortness of breath, wheezing and fatigue. Reach them at healthherbsclinic. c om , I no longer carry my portable oxygen cylinder around with me. I am Emphysema free!

1 year ago

Sounds important to me, given how many suffer from asthma that then turns out to be COPD. I hope no one confuses these “domestic air cleaners” (machines) with those overly scented (and perhaps even toxic?) so-called “air-freshener” devices that we come across so often in taxis, hotels, B&Bs, even restaurants, shops … how bad are they? Please can you do an article here on AQN about these artificially fragranced commerical products and their ingredients? We find them repulsive – and unhealthy. But we know the portable air cleaners you are talking about here are entirely different, thank you. We have been running a couple for years, with hepa filters and we can recommend.

Darlene Deutch
Darlene Deutch
1 year ago

Another reason wood burning stove must be banned in communities, along with land clearing debris fires, prescribed forestry burns and backyard fire pits.

1 year ago
Reply to  Darlene Deutch

I couldn’t agree more, Darlene. farmland and garden bonfires ought to be restricted too as they make plenty of pollution. We have seen very many starting up now that the new Year has arrived. Garden waste can be composted and I believe there are mechanical ways to clear farmland of weeds befoe they get out of hand. There are very many controlled/prescribed burns where we live in the spring every year and the smoke envelopes the villages for days and yet no one says a word.

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