Story at a glance:

  • Robert Redfield is joining Big Ass Fans, a company that says its technology kills the coronavirus.
  • Officials say the technology is fairly new and "little research is available that evaluates it outside of lab conditions."
  • Big Ass Fans charges $500 to $1,500 more for the Clean Air System technology.

The former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under the Trump administration is now the strategic health and safety adviser for "Big Ass Fans."

Robert Redfield is now part of the company that promotes a “Clean Air System,” saying one of its $9,450 fans reduces coronavirus infection by 95 percent and kills 99.9 percent of pathogens.

"[Big Ass Fans is the] leader in designing airflow systems and making places where we live, work, and play, safer," Redfield said.

However, some officials say the fans designed to prevent COVID-19 are flawed.

“There’s no other way to say it — it’s completely unproven whether these devices would work in a real-world setting,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison chemistry professor Timothy Bertram, according to Kaiser Health News (KHN).


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Redfield is not the only Trump appointee landing new roles at medical and tech companies. A month prior, Deborah Birx, former White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, joined the air-purifying sector under ActivePure.

Some of Big Ass Fans’s models use sterilizing UVC light, which is widely considered an effective air-sanitizing solution, KHN reports. Other fans use bipolar ionization, which the Environmental Protection Agency warns is an emerging technology and that "little research is available that evaluates it outside of lab conditions."

Big Ass Fans charges $500 to $1,500 more for these add-ons.

"We know that we're not producing any negative products," said Alex Risen, the spokesperson for Big Ass Fans, KHN reports. "We know that at the concentrations that you're at, you're not getting negative effects."

Bertram says his research has shown that some ion- and hydroxyl-releasing products emitted ozone, a gas associated with the onset or worsening of asthma, according to KHN. He recommends the standard system of using a HEPA filter combined with a MERV-13 filter in a heating system and increased outside ventilation to air out a room. 

The EPA also warns that bipolar ionization could generate ozone and other potentially harmful byproducts to inhale indoors, and another study found the technology could generate byproducts like toluene, according to KHN.

Risen says Big Ass Fans's ionization technology does not emit ozone or other byproducts and is not "putting bad things into your lungs," KHN reports. Risen also says the fans should be used as one part of a strategy to protect against the coronavirus. 

Changing America has reached out to Big Ass Fans for comment.

In his latest appearance on CNN with Sanjay Gupta, Redfield said that COVID-19 came from a Chinese lab. 

"I am of the point of view that I still think the most likely etiology of this pathogen in Wuhan was from a laboratory, you know, escaped,," Redfield said. "The other people don’t believe that. That’s fine. Science will eventually figure it out."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been edited to attribute the following quote to Alex Risen: 'We know that we're not producing any negative products. We know that at the concentrations that you're at, you're not getting negative effects.' Additionally, some officials warn that bipolar ionization could emit byproducts that are harmful to inhale indoors. The warning did not focus on environmental impact. 

 

 

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Published on Apr 13, 2021