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Smoky air causes spike in sale of air purifiers in Ontario

As Toronto recorded some of the worst air quality readings in the world this week, many people decided to go to home improvement stores to purchase air purifiers to help them breathe easier.

“We only have one large air purifier left on the shelf and a few small ones left for bedrooms, but it’s been a busy week for sales,” said Cheryl Papageorgiou, manager of the Home Depot’s Leaside location in Toronto.

Papageorgiou said the store had plenty of large air purifier units on the shelf on Wednesday night, but customers lined up to buy them.

“We had maybe 10 units in the evening, and they were all purchased by this morning," said Papageorgiou.

With the blanket of wildfire smoke hanging over Toronto, even if you stayed inside your home, the fine particulate matter that makes up the smoke can still creep in.

Running an air purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) can trap wildfire smoke, dust, allergens and pet dander.

HEPA filters are certified to capture more than 99 per cent of fine particles, and they work best with a clean filter which needs to be replaced every six to 12 months.

"If you are experiencing wildfire smoke, you want to be sure the air purifier is on the highest setting, and you are running it 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Tanya Christian with Consumer Reports told CTV News Toronto.

While an air purifier will help you breathe easier, if you don't have one, there are other things you can do to clear the air, like checking that your furnace filter isn't clogged or dirty and upgrading to a filter that catches smaller particles.

"If you're concerned about smoke and you're looking for a filter, you should be looking for something that is a MERV 13,” said Papagerogiou.

A MERV 13 filter will catch smaller pollutants, but depending on your furnace, it could also impact airflow. One option is to switch back to your regular filter when the smoke situation passes.

Joey Fox, an air quality expert with the Ontario Society of Professional Engineers, said it’s about trying to filter as much air as possible in your home and keeping smoky air out.

“Even if you don't have the smoke smell inside your home, you want the particulate matter to be as low as possible as you're going to have air leaks in your house and want to filter as much air as possible,” said Fox.

As well as keeping your windows and doors closed, you could also use weather stripping to keep outside air from getting in.

Window units may have filters that require cleaning, but they're usually not fine enough to trap smoke.

Air purifiers sell for between $100 to $1,000. Most are designed to clean only one room at a time, so if you buy one, check the room size and how much replacement filters cost. Top Stories

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