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HEPA stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air.
HEPA Filters are designed to remove 99.97% of all particles down to 0.3 microns in size. For comparrison, pollen is 5-100 microns and human hair is 70-100 microns.
HEPA filters are composed of randomly arranged fibers on a mat-like surface that allows for more fibers to be trapped within them.
HEPA Filters use 3 methods for capturing particles:
HEPA filters were originally designed in the 1940's to prevent the spread of airborne radioactive contaminants.
Over the years, they have evolved to accommodate the constant demand for better air quality in hospitals, aerospace, pharmaceutical companies, and nuclear facilities who know how critical they are in preventing the spread of bacterial and viral organisms.
The American Lung Association claims they "are the most efficient mechanical filters for removing small particles which can be breathed deep into the lungs. The highest efficiency air cleaners, widely available today, remove 0.3 micron sized particles at a minimum of 99.97% efficiency."
Examples of HEPA Air Purifiers: