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Be wary of air filtration and UV light claims. It could lead to legal hot water.

Equipment manufacturers and several dental professionals are making potentially false statements regarding newly introduced infection control equipment; and it could get them into legal trouble.

Dental practitioners should be wary about making claims regarding filtration equipment destroying or capturing the SARS-COV-2 virus.  

We won’t point out any names or articles but there have been several…

Specific claims about filtering, killing, or removing the COVID-19 or SARS-COV-2 are especially important.

Here’s why…

HEPA Air Purifier Claims

While there’s tons of research to suggest HEPA filters are able to capture the Corona virus, there are no studies which currently prove this with scientific certainty.

It’s highly likely we’ll see something published in the near future that will verify this, but until then, it’s best to avoid making a statement about a unit’s ability to capture COVID-19 until research comes out. 

And we would know…

Having had the FTC reach out to us directly regarding this specific issue. A story you can read more about here.

You can say that HEPA filters capture like-viruses such as SARS and others as there has been research to verify this. Just be sure not to make any claims regarding SARS-COV-2 specifically.

UV Light

Certain manufacturers of filtration equipment have installed UV light technology inside their HEPA filtration devices to “kill the virus” and many dentists have purchased equipment under this assumption.

Unfortunately, detailed research published in the US National Library of Medicine Institutes of Health found that the use of UV light in HEPA units was inconclusive and not a replacement for standard HEPA filters.

The study performed a head-to-head comparison of a HEPA device with UV light versus a HEPA device without.  

The results showed no relevant effect from UV light when used inside a HEPA filtration device and ultimately concluded that:

Given the uncertainty of the estimate of benefits, an in-room air cleaner with HEPA technology only may be an equally reasonable alternative to using one with combined UVGI and HEPA technology. This is primary due to the requirements for UV light to work; mainly exposure time and light intensity

Air Cleaning Technologies: An Evidence-Based Analysis
Ont Health Technol Assess Ser. 2005; 5(17): 1–52.

If you search for more than 5 minutes you’ll also find a plethora of educated researchers who suggest against the use of UV light inside HEPA devices.

One such example is Jose-Luis Jimenez, Prof. of Chemistry at the University of Colorado, noted speaker on aerosols and air pollution, who states:

“Selecting HEPA cleaner, DO NOT want ones that also have UV, ions or other bells-and-whistles. More $, don’t help, can be dangerous (see below). Filter already capturing the virus, which will decay there. Just change filter carefully, put in sealed bag, wash hands.”

https://twitter.com/jljcolorado/status/1291760621822726145

In addition, both the CDC and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) prohibit the use of these systems when used in portable air cleaners or purifiers primarily due to the potential for Ozone emission.. (Seen here)

Other Potential Legal Issues

Aside from the FTC, dental practices and their staff are open to patient lawsuits.

This isn’t news to anyone; however, with a new pandemic there could be grounds for new lawsuits.

Here are a few examples of legal grounds for which legal action has been taken:

  • Breaching infection control standards
  • Failure to identify or take precautions with a medically compromised patient
  • Not adhering to standards of care

In Short…

Any claims made by dental professionals to patients regarding COVID-19 should be avoided as there is no scientific evidence to back this up making any claim to capture or kill the virus false.

Once the pandemic began we poured over study after study to see if HEPA air purifiers would effectively capture SARS-COV-2 and made a reasonable assumption that they would on the basis of existing research.  

We published an article about it and were contact by the FTC shortly after who stated we were in violation (again, you can read about it here).

Long story short, we had to update our article to remove specific COVID-19 claims (albeit likely to be proven true soon).

It’s best not to make any claims that cannot be supported. 

We are all aware of the need for dentists and their staff to get back to work but the last thing anyone wants is some kind of legal action to further complicate things.

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References & Resources

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