What Consumer Reports and Wirecutter Got Wrong in Their Molekule Reviews

Wirecutter’s testing, and even more broadly, public discussions of air quality sensors, regulations, and testing standards, have focused on larger particulate matter, which represents only one component of what actually contributes to air quality. In particular, Wirecutter uses data from a hand held high-grade particle sensor in a home or office setting to measure the particle capture rate of the units they test, which drastically affected the validity of the review.

While this is certainly one way to test air purifiers, it is not the most advanced, and it certainly does not take into account all of the modern scientific research on air quality. Wirecutter reviews only one aspect of air quality, and admitted in this now-deleted tweet that they don’t even have the means to test PECO adequately. 

Furthermore, Wirecutter states on their website that PECO is distinct from HEPA, yet applied HEPA testing standards to the device.

This just isn’t a complete enough approach for consumers to know whether an air purifier is going to work for them.

This testing methodology is too narrow because:

  • It does not test for biological particles in the air, such as mold and microorganisms.
  • It does not test for VOCs, and research into the health effects of VOCs suggests a variety of concerns that are very different from the effects of particulate matter. The EPA has issued a statement on VOCs’ impact on indoor air quality, showing that there are currently no federal standards on VOCs in the home but pointing out their risks.
  • It does not take into account that lower air flow can improve destruction efficiency leading to cleaner air in the long run.

Taking measurements of the air other than just raw particle count is a more holistic approach to air quality. Chemicals like formaldehyde and turpentine that off-gas from furniture and other products are becoming an increasing concern and are smaller in size than what HEPA testing looks for. The viruses that Wirecutter says HEPA can’t handle were not addressed in their testing. As a result, it is unclear how Wirecutter’s recommended air purifiers perform on VOC removal at all or how they affect other measures of air quality outside of particulate matter. We offered Wirecutter laboratory space, equipment, and specialists so they could perform adequate testing, but they declined.

Molekule’s PECO technology was designed to destroy pollutants, unlike traditional filter technology that, as Wirecutter mentioned, cannot handle all of the unhealthy substances in the air. Wirecutter says that it “can’t test whether the machine is destroying things or not. But that doesn’t really matter.” We believe that all pollutants do matter, particularly the small pollutants that can pass through filters meeting the HEPA standard, and that the destruction (not just capture) of these pollutants is an approach that should not be ignored.

Wirecutter states that “Air purifiers do one thing and do it very well: remove fine particles from the air.” At Molekule, we believe air purifiers should do more than one thing, and traditional categories of fine particles are not the only pollutants that affect the air you breathe. PECO technology is specifically designed to target the broader spectrum of air quality that Wirecutter, HEPA technology, and some companies in the air purification industry have been ignoring for decades.

Wirecutter’s coverage concluded that “it doesn’t really matter” if they could test whether or not the Molekule air purifier could destroy pollutants, but that oversimplified viewpoint diminishes years of work that has been done in the field of indoor air pollution.

For more information on air quality and testing methodologies, we encourage you to read here. Additionally, as we have started to commercialize PECO technology, we are gratified by the responses of thousands of customers who have shared their belief in, and satisfaction with, our air purification technology. 

Our CEO Jaya Rao weighed in on Medium about Wirecutter and Consumer Report’s review of Molekule and how relying on testing this narrow could be bad for your health.