UB offers guidance on use of portable air purifying units

Published September 16, 2021

UB does not recommend the use of portable air purifying units (APUs) to reduce exposure to COVID-19 in low-risk areas on campus, in accordance with current CDC and ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) recommendations. But the university is providing some guidance for individuals who choose to use the units in their work and living spaces.

The units must be fan-driven, preferably with a HEPA filter. Other air-purifying methodologies, such as ionization and UV-C, have not been fully vetted for health and safety in enclosed spaces, and will not be allowed on campus.

UB will not provide funding for APUs in personal spaces. Individuals may purchase HEPA-based APUs using a non-university source of funding. Business or decanal units may purchase HEPA-based APUs using unit funds.

Those using APUs must continue to maintain all UB COVID-based health and safety requirements within the area.

Other guidance, as well as UB’s formal position statement regarding the use of APUs on campus, can be found online.  

Following CDC guidance, UB utilizes a multi-pronged approach to reducing the risk of exposure to COVID-19, including vaccination, masking requirements, health screening tools, hygiene and regular surveillance testing, as well as appropriate building ventilation.

The CDC recommends use of APUs as an auxiliary method of air handling in high-risk areas, such as health clinics, vaccination and medical testing locations, workout rooms and high-density public waiting areas. APUs are not a substitute for a well-maintained and properly balanced HVAC system, says the CDC, which considers APUs an emerging technology, and in many cases, where appropriate ventilation already exists, their use may not offer a benefit and may even create a higher disease transmission risk.

UB Facilities and Environment, Health and Safety staff throughout the pandemic has been evaluating and optimizing campus ventilation systems based on CDC and ASHRAE guidelines. Their work has included inspecting and maintaining campus building HVAC systems, increasing the amount of outdoor air, improving overall airflow, extending operational hours, and increasing filtration where feasible.