The Air Quality is Terrible Right Now. Here's What You Can Do About It


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Apr 27, 2023

The Air Quality is Terrible Right Now. Here's What You Can Do About It

By Lori Keong All products featured on GQ are independently selected by our

By Lori Keong

All products featured on GQ are independently selected by our editors. However, when you buy something through our retail links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Yesterday, before the sky over New York City took on an eerie gray pall and the smell of burning from over 400 active wildfires in Canada permeated the air, I woke up bright and early to a screengrab of the air quality levels and a text from my brother, who also lives in the area, that read: "Keep your windows closed this week and wear a mask if you go out." The sibling emergency alert service is free, courtesy of years of fraternal goodwill, but anyone else who's not privy to these familial perks could also invest in their own personal air quality alarm. Turns out, my brother's air purifiers had tipped him off to the poor air quality before any official news blasts did. "They were going off for no obvious reason," he told me.

With everything that we know about the situation in Canada that's causing smoke to blanket the Northeast and air quality levels to plummet into "unhealthy" zones, air pollution experts are advising that people limit outdoor activities, especially individuals with a history of respiratory problems and preexisting conditions like asthma. Thanks to a swirling storm system off the coast of Nova Scotia, smoke from these fires has been wafting south and will persist in the area over the next couple days, bringing with it tiny airborne particulates that are small enough to enter the bloodstream, and—even with short-term exposure—can heighten your risk of respiratory illnesses, lung cancer, and heart disease.

If you need to be outside for whatever reason, an N95 mask or KN95 will filter out those smoke particulates from the air and provide an extra security blanket when the air quality levels are this grim. But as Daniel Westervelt—a Lamont Assistant Research Professor at Columbia University's Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory and an air-pollution adviser to the U.S. State Department—advised Curbed recently, it's not a bad time to invest in an air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter since "while indoor air should be lower in particle concentration than outside, a lot of that air makes its way in one way or another, so we can expect higher concentrations indoors as well."

Even if plumes of smoke aren't compromising your airflow, it's also just nice to keep tabs on your indoor air quality and what may be adversely affecting it (for the times when you can't detect irritants so easily).

To that end, we were thrilled to see that our favorite mid-price Blueair air purifier is still in stock (and even on sale for 20% off if you clip that lil' coupon underneath it) just in time to head off this week's dismal air quality. Among a grouping of its peers that we tested in the air purifier space, this one earned top marks for its price, performance, and operating costs. It calls on its integrated sensors to optimize airflow in rooms up to 340 square feet and uses proprietary HEPASilent technology that's designed to pump out clean air faster and more quietly than traditional HEPA filters can. Our tester also noted that "because the Pure 311 Auto features a 360-degree airflow and a small footprint (20 inches tall by 10 inches in diameter), it was easy to find a spot in any room to plant it, even in a cramped bedroom." If you Prime it right now, you can even get it fast-tracked to your door.

Or, if you're inclined to dial up your investment, Blueair also just released a new Max line of air purifers that are supposedly 83% more powerful, quieter, and have more smart features than the original Pure line for slightly more dinero.

If you're not entirely sold on the 311 and want to shop around, here are some other HEPA filter-equipped air purifiers we'd recommend.

This Coway Airmega model is our top budget recommendation, with a small 18-inch-tall body that can comfortably fit into most corners of your home and even on shelves. It's a best-seller for the South Korean brand that's become a favorite of clean air enthusiasts for overperforming at its price point. A couple key selling points are its longevity (extending beyond the three-year warranty), superior clean air delivery rate (i.e. how much air it can move and how clean it can get that air), plus the long lifespan of its filter so you don't have to worry about re-upping all that often.

For absolute clean air freaks and severe allergy sufferers, the BlueAir advanced air purifier tackles a smattering of environmental irritants, including pet dander, allergens, smoke, and smog. It even includes a carbon filter for tackling smells from cooking, and is large enough to sanitize the air of a room up to 418 square feet.

If you're looking for a bulk buy that gets you an air purifier and a fan in one for these increasingly humid times, we'd also suggest looking into Dyson's dual Purifier Cool purifying fan. We haven't reviewed this specific model from Dyson (our tester preferred the formaldehyde-detecting version) but it has great reviews, and we're very familiar with other multi-tasking models from the line. Dyson air purifiers don't have the greatest longevity of any home tech device we've owned before, but when they're functioning at capacity, they're wonder-workers that pile various functions into one sleek device and are easily controllable via app or remote control.

We haven't reviewed this before, but this is the fancy Coway model that my brother owns. I've seen them in person, and they're sleek enough to pass off as speakers while pumping out clean air quietly and efficiently. The Airmega 250 includes 24/7 air pollution monitoring and triple layers of air protection for your home comprised of a pre-filter, deodorization filter, and true HEPA filter.