Updated January 5, 2017
In the Behind the Scenes Texas CIRS Virtual Conference 2016, Dr. Shoemaker discusses the findings of a preliminary study on the Air Oasis machine. In this uncontrolled study of 48 homes that had been unsuccessfully remediated, it was found that Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS) patients were able to return to their homes symptom free after using this air purifying technology.
This sounds amazing. Is the Air Oasis the answer to the super small biotoxins that make those with CIRS sick? I began to try to answer this question by reviewing the study details.
The study involved 48 consecutive consultation cases with Dr. Shoemaker. All the clients had their moldy homes remediated. After remediation, five homes had passing HERTSMI-2 mold scores below 10. All the rest had failing scores. Specifically, 17 homes had a HERTSMI between 10 and 16. The remaining 26 homes had a HERTSMI greater than 16. Regardless of whether the score was passing or failing, all of the homes made CIRS patients sick even after being remediated – they were still loaded with super small biotoxins.
In an attempt to make their homes habitable, patients ran various numbers and sizes of Air Oasis machines through out their homes. Larger 3000G3 machines were used in big homes. Smaller 1000G3 machines were used in smaller homes and apartments. After 30 days of continuous use, 26 homes had a passing HERTSMI below 11 and 12 homes were above a HERTSMI of 11 (ten homes didn’t do a second HERTSMI). What was amazing is that in spite of what the follow-up HERTSMI scores were, all CIRS patients were now able to return to their homes without symptom flair.
Now before you get too excited, Dr. Shoemaker did say that homes with a HERTSMI above 15 were remediated a second time. Given that Dr. Shoemaker was most likely involved in that process, I bet the second remediation was much more thorough all. For all we know, those homes cleaned up a second time would have been fine regardless of whether an Air Oasis was used or not. Looking at the figures, this means that at least 26 of the 48 homes in the study were cleaned up a second time. Nonetheless, the data was compelling enough that I decided to look into the Air Oasis machine a bit.
I started by going to the Air Oasis website. Imagine unicorns frolicking in a field of flowers under a blue sky filled with beautiful rainbows. This is the essence of the limited information provided on the company’s website. They say the oxidizing molecules released by the machine to clean the air are 100% safe. They also list results from studies showing dramatic reductions in allergens and toxins. OK, that’s just what constitutes “good marketing” nowadays.
Still, how does the machine actually work? This is important in order to assess risk. Based upon information found on the Air Oasis website and the others mentioned below, the units consist of metal cage that is then coated with five different metals. This cage surrounds a special UV-C light.
The use of five different metals in the Air Oasis is an enhanced form of PhotoCatalytic Oxidation (PCO) technology. Regular PCO uses a titanium oxide (TiO2) coated cage with a UV-C light to create highly reactive and very short lived hydroxyl radicals and super-oxide ions. Similar to oxidizing ozone but much stronger, this technology creates oxidants that “burn up” toxins.
The five metals used in the Air Oasis are nano sized and include rhodium and nickel – instead of inexpensive titanium oxide. Air Oasis calls this proprietary PCO technology Advanced Hydrated PhotoCatalytic Oxidation (AHPCO). The super small sized metal particles increases surface area and enhances the reaction between the the UV-C wavelength light (200nm – 280nm), the metals themselves, and the moisture in the air.
On top of this coating of metals they apply a moisture attracting gel. Given that the stated oxidizing compounds created by this technology involve breaking apart water molecules in the air, the gel coating enhances the reactions too. The AHPCO technology, gel, and ozone generating UV lamp all work to increase the output of oxidants.
In addition, Air Oasis machines use a cold plasma discharge device called Bi-Polar to create positive & negative ions (charged particles) from water vapor in the air. Ions work differently than the oxidants produced by the Air Oasis. According to this Air Oasis Bi-Polar description, these ions cause particles like dust, smoke, pollen, and dander in the air to stick to one another until eventually they become so large that they fall out in the form of “dust”. When the ions strike a toxin like mold, bacteria, or virus, the DNA is damaged and the pathogen cannot reproduce. When the ions impact VOCs, they’re changed to oxygen, carbon dioxide and water vapor.
|AHPCO Technology||Bi-Polar Ionization|
That all sounds wonderful, but we still haven’t answered the question as to what compounds are being produced by the AHPCO technology. To answer this, we’re left to glean what we can from the Air Oasis diagrams showing water (H20) in the air being broken down into hydroxyl radicals (OH) and superoxide ions consisting of an oxygen (O2) with an extra electron. Both of these highly reactive oxidants are very short lived lasting less than a millionth of a second.
Now if this was all that the machine produced, I would have been very skeptical of Dr. Shoemaker’s tentative study. Air Oasis machines have tiny 30 cubic-feet-per-minute fans. We know from the work of Gregg Weatherman, that it takes serious air flow and turbulence to clear super small biotoxins from a building. A tiny little 30 cfm fan is going to interact very little with the toxins in a building.
However, the diagrams also show hydro peroxides (HO2) and hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) being produced along with ozone (O3) and ions (charged particles). The peroxides and ozone can linger in the air for minutes to hours. Along with ions that typically last about 30 seconds before combining with other substances, it’s the peroxides, ozone, and ions that waft out into the room and neutralize toxins. The hydroxyl radicals and superoxide ions can only oxidize the very limited number of pathogens that pass directly through the machine.
My Chemical-Free House
The Best Air Purifiers for Mold – A Review of PCO Machines
Now that we have a basic understanding of how the machine is described as working, let’s step out of land of unicorns and rainbows and see what else we can figure out. First, it should be clear that the Air Oasis is not a filter. It does not have HEPA pleated filter material to trap particles as small as 0.3 microns, nor does it have a carbon medium for trapping VOCs (although it can chemically neutralize VOCs).
As a side note, if you purchase a separate filter unit to work in conjunction with an Air Oasis, make sure to check out what type of carbon it uses. For example, not all carbon filters capture formaldehyde from new building materials like pre-finished flooring. If you’re concerned with off-gassing from new building materials then you should really should use potassium permanganate in combination with other carbons – see Faust or IQAir.
Instead, the Air Oasis either oxidizes toxins in the air or causes them to participate out of the air. Of particular note is the fact that according to Air Purifier Power, PCO air cleaners like the Air Oasis can fry particles as small as 0.001 microns up to about 0.01 microns. This is important as Dr. Shoemaker has often commented that 99.8% of the toxins that make people with CIRS sick are smaller than the 0.3 microns that a HEPA filter can trap. Given that some particles get globed together by the ions from the Air Oasis to form dust, Dr. Shoemaker advises people running Air Oasis machines vacuum 2-3 times a week. He did not say the vacuum had to be HEPA rated. Note: Most “HEPA” vacuums leak – see Sleep Sanctuary – HEPA Vacuums.
To this I would add dusting large horizontal surfaces. By dusting I mean using lots of clean damp cloths. The best are micro-fiber cloths. Neatly fold the cloth before using and wipe in a sweeping motion. Refold the cloth often to expose a clean portion of the fabric. Throw used cloths into the wash and grab a clean one.
Now I still believe HEPA filtration is important. I believe that larger fungal fragments capable of being trapped in a HEPA filter are coated with all sorts of nasty toxins. As such, pulling them out of the air along with allergens like pollen is helpful. Also, I would never buy a HEPA filter without a carbon element even though the Air Oasis can neutralize VOCs. As I’ll discuss in just a bit, exactly what mix of compounds result from the reactions produced by the Air Oasis is unclear. Having a carbon filter to mope up some of these by-products makes good sense, not to mention the added VOC filtering capacity.
I also want to point out that I do not think an Air Oasis should be used to clean up mold. If there is active mold growing in a building, I personally would think long and hard about using an Air Oasis. As noted, the Air Oasis is sending out oxidizing molecules into the air. Given that mold tends to produce more toxins when stressed, I suspect that slowly killing mold using an Air Oasis could increase the toxins in the air. If the mold is growing in a space with low air circulation, as is quite common, then the mold may not be killed. Rather, it could be in a constant state of attack and subsequently releasing lots of extra toxins in defense. Granted the Air Oasis will be neutralizing some of these extra toxins but I’m guessing you get my concern.
To give you a specific example, take air ducts. Air Oasis sells units called “nano HCT Induct” units that are placed directly into the main ductwork of the building. In do doing, the oxidizing agents released by the unit are more readily spread through out the building. However, if you read, DuctWork – Mold – Health, you know that air conditioning coils are very often moldy. No one ever cleans their A/C coils even though they’re exposed to all sorts of dust and remain wet from condensation for months at a time!
Now suppose you install an Air Oasis induct unit. I foresee the possibility for all sorts of nasty toxins to be spewing out of the ductwork. In fact, this is my theory behind why some people that install UV-C lights to keep their A/C coils clean end up feeling worse after the light is installed. UV-C light is awesome for knocking out many toxins as I’ll discuss in a following article but it can get you into trouble if active mold is present.
If you install a UV-C light by mold, it’s going to rapidly kill the mold. If that mold is on an A/C coil exposed to high air flow, all those fragments are going to end up pouring into the building through the air vents. So while some people who felt worse using a UV-C light placed above A/C coils believe it’s because harmful chemicals were created when the UV light reacted with chemicals in the air, I think it’s much more likely the A/C coil had mold on it that was released in mass into the air. Regardless, the main point is that you could make the air quality worse if you use air purifiers that actively kill mold in buildings with active mold growth.
Having said this, we just bought a small Air Oasis for my Mom who lives in a moldy apartment complex. Just last week, the air conditioning unit for her building started leaking water. This unit is just a few doors down from her apartment. It took Management five days to get the leak fixed. In the mean time, water was running out from under the door from the room with the air conditioner! Residents on the floor below are now complaining of a musty odor. My Mom has CIRS and is already really sick. In her case, the toxins are coming from an external source. We’re going to give the Air Oasis a try in an attempt to make her apartment a sort of clean zone. Ugh.
Whole House Air Oasis Drops HERTSMI-2 From 12 to 4
While it may sort of sound like I knew a bit about chemistry from the discussion above, I don’t. I simply looked up the various compounds shown on the Air Oasis diagram along with using information found on sites like Air Oasis Air UV PCO Air Sanitizers and Inspired Living. I’m guessing even Chemists could get into real debates over what compounds, besides those relatively benign oxidants Air Oasis discloses, are being produced. In situations like this, I try to apply common sense.
What we know without a doubt is that the Air Oasis technology produces a small amount of ozone. Based upon the diagrams, it appears that some of the oxygen molecules liberated when water molecules (H2O) are cleaved apart combine into ozone (O3). As I’ve discussed in articles like Clean Driving Machine, I’m all for the use of ozone both medically and for remediation. One does need to be careful about exposure levels though. When it comes to the Air Oasis, they make it clear the output of their machines is very low. Still, there is some output and for those that have MCS, this may be an issue. Update: Holly commented below that in conversation with Air Oasis, they confirmed that ozone was intentionally being produced by the UV lamp – see My Light Tube: UV Basics.
Furthermore, we know ozone and the other oxidants made by the Air Oasis will “burn up” (oxidize) materials they come into contact with. In an Air Oasis machine, oxidizing agents are coming in contact with a mix of nano sized metal particles along with various other materials in the room. Do we know exactly what additional reactions are taking place? No, we don’t. I’ve been told by an indoor air quality expert, in conversation with a chemist of 30 years, that not all of the by-products produced are safe.
This shouldn’t be too surprising. It doesn’t take much searching to find that formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and other harmful VOCs result from incomplete neutralization of VOCs using PCO technology. Inspired Living mentions that cheaper PCO air purifiers can actually increase levels of formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, formic acid, and acetic acid. In terms of the Air Oasis, they list studies showing marked reduction in many VOCs along with other toxins.
My main point is that clearly PCO technology produces compounds that are not healthy. This includes the carbon dioxide that results when carbon based compounds (living stuff) reacts with oxidants. No one has ever made a machine like the Air Oasis with it’s particular mix of nano sized metals. Speaking of nano particles, depending on their size, nano particles can be so small that they can simply slip right in-between molecules and penetrate cells. This can cause DNA damage and increase cancer risks. Now the nano metals in the Air Oasis are apparently fixed to the metal cage that surrounds the UV-C light, but there are some very real unknowns here.
Lisa Petrison and Michael Pinto have done a nice job discussing similar concerns in reference to the HiTech air purifier that I’m told was all the rage not too long ago within mold forums. If you look over the HiTech website, you get the sense they’re using some sort of PCO variation but they’re even less forthcoming regarding output than Air Oasis.
As a way of assuaging the concern over the oxidants the Air Oasis makes, Air Oasis Air UV PCO Air Sanitizers points out that the human body has natural defenses against the strong oxidants produced by the Air Oasis. This includes glutathione anti-oxidant pathways. As such, it’s argued that people should be able to handle the additional oxidant load from an Air Oasis. However, for those who’s bodies are already overwhelmed, it seems conceivable that being exposed to the oxidants from an Air Oasis may be too much. Dr. Shoemaker rightly recommends keeping a distance from the machine by using it in bedroom areas during the day and in living areas during the night – although his concern is with the small amounts of ozone.
For myself, I’m going to run the machine in the garage for a few days to give the heated plastic and UV bulb a chance to off-gas. I’m also going to limit exposure by waiting 30 minutes before entering spaces where the machine has run. Additionally, I plan on using the machine on an as-needed basis only, not continuously, and to use it in unoccupied spaces. That’s not to say that I won’t pop into an area where the machine is running; I just won’t hang out there. When it comes down to it, I put PCO and ozone in the same group. Assuredly, unhealthy compounds are made but when it comes to those with CIRS who aren’t particularly chemically sensitive, the net effect appears to be positive.
My Air Oasis Observations
Update January 5, 2017
I’ve been using my Air Oasis for a few months. I’ve been running it from anywhere from a few hours to a few days on any one level of the house. Here are my observations.
- This machine definitely cleans the air. It is noticeably better after running the Air Oasis. Smells go away and there are noticeably fewer particulates in the air. To a degree, the air is similar to what I experience when I walk down the open-air jet ramp in the Mojave Desert after first arriving from humid Wisconsin. There is just a lot less of anything in the air. The impact of mold, bacteria, chemicals, and so on are noticeable missing in this clean air. Of course, the degree the Air Oasis can clean the air depends upon what its up against. It’s not a “knocks your socks off” type of effect but is definitely noticeable.
- I like running the Air Oasis in hotel rooms. Recently, I went to have cavitation dental work done. While I was in surgery, my wife ran our G3 Air Oasis in the room for several hours and then turned it off. When I opened the door and walked into our hotel room, the air was markedly cleaner than what I would have expected from having walked through the lobby and down the hallways. It was striking.
- I like running the Air Oasis when guests come over. Even though my friends are careful to wear clean clothes, shower, and abstain from using deodorants and perfumes before visiting, the air quality always drops to some degree. I now turn on the G3 before they arrive along with an overhead fan on slow speed and this really helps with smells that they bring in. For myself, being able to quickly counteract what visitors track in is really great.
- The G3 Air Oasis puts out serious amounts of ozone. I was really surprised by how strong the smell was in certain parts of the house. As a result, I always run a ceiling fan in close proximity to minimize the smell of ozone. What’s interesting is that I only notice a build up of ozone on the lower level of our house which doesn’t have any fabric furniture and has a concrete floor. On upper levels with fabric furniture, beds, and the kitchen, I don’t notice the smell of ozone. My theory is there is more material for the ozone to react to on upper levels so it gets neutralized more quickly.
- My body seems to start to “freak out” if I’m exposed to too many of the oxidants from the Air Oasis. For example, if I run the G3 in the living room where I sit to have meals and will watch a movie in the evening, after a couple of days I notice that my mind is starting to get more anxious. I can’t pick up on any physical change but I’ve learned to trust this early warning sign. After turning off the Air Oasis, this anxiety abates in about a day. What’s intriguing is that my subconscious is reacting to something in the air that may or may not be causing any physical reaction – see Mold Induced Anxiety. Regardless, Dr. Shoemaker’s recommendation to run the Air Oasis in unoccupied parts of the house is good advice.
The Bottom Line
On the one hand, we have some pretty good preliminary data showing that Air Oasis machines can clean up the air of the super small biotoxins that make those with CIRS sick. However, the machine isn’t a “magic bullet”. I would not recommend using it in homes with active mold growth. It also assuredly produces compounds that are not healthy. Exactly how bad those compounds are is an unknown. We do know that those with CIRS in the study did not have an issue in the short term. Nonetheless, people with significant MCS should probably limit themselves to a good HEPA and carbon filter.
For what it’s worth, even with a 30-day money-back guarantee, we’re told that less than 1% return the machine. This is in comparison with the typical 5-6% return rate for money-back guarantees. I can tell you that my wife and I bought one for my Mom and ourselves. My brother bought one too. Given the generous return policy and the information presented, we’re going to cautiously give this new technology a try. After all, the unit is only 4”x4”x15” so return shipping won’t be pricey.
Note: Biotoxin Journey has no financial affiliation with Air Oasis or any of the websites mentioned.