Take a deep breath. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Wasn’t that nice?
The US Environmental Protection Agency has bad news for you. Studies of human exposure to air pollutants suggest that indoor air may be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. These results are particularly worrisome because most people spend 90% of their day indoors.
Clean air technology company Molekule has developed an air purifier that doesn’t just catch those pollutants, but breaks them down on a molecular level. The company’s eponymous device uses light to zap particles 1,000 times smaller than what traditional high-efficiency particulate air filters (HEPA units) catch.
In that gulp of air you just downed, you may have been exposed to any number of indoor air pollutants, including microscopic organic compounds released from burning fuel, building materials and furnishings, and cleaning supplies.
The effect of these compounds on health range from being highly toxic to completely benign, depending on their chemical makeup and a person’s level of exposure. Long-term exposure puts you at risk of damage to the liver, kidneys, and central nervous system, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
“Air quality has been something of a forgotten frontier,” Jaya Rao, cofounder and COO of Molekule, tells Business Insider. “We can do better as technology innovators.”
Rao’s father, Yogi Goswami, began developing the technology that makes the Molekule work more than 20 years ago, while working in solar energy at a US Air Force base. At home, his son and Jaya’s brother, Dilip Goswami, suffered debilitating symptoms from asthma and allergies. Yogi realised he could apply his research to air purification.
He later passed the torch to his children to continue his work.
The result is a silver canister equipped with a low-energy, UV light source. When particles pass through the device, the light causes a chemical reaction on the surface of the filter that breaks down the harmful pollutants into debris that is safe to breathe.
According to Rao, the Molekule completely cycles the air in the room where the device is located every 30 minutes. In a beta test, she saw most people place it in their bedrooms. Testers said they woke with fewer headaches and symptoms of congestion.
It’s not cheap. The Molekule retails for $799 and is available for pre-order for $499, while many traditional air purifiers cost less than $100. Customers can also purchase a subscription for annual filter replacements for $99 a year. Rao says you get what you pay for.
While typical filters capture particles on a piece of fabric inside the devices, “they’re not really moving the needle,” Rao says. HEPA filters store harmful pollutants, she says, while the Molekule aims to eliminate them altogether.
Molekule begins shipping in early 2017.