Clearing the Air: Reflecting on COVID-19, Clean Air, and Health Inequities

Ideal Living Founders Discuss Inspiration For Air Purifier & KN95 Mask Donations

COVID-19 has brought social and racial injustice and inequities to the forefront of public health. 

In fact, populations living in areas with high levels of air pollution are at significantly greater risk for infection and death from COVID-19. Our founders knew that we could help these communities and bring them safe, clean air at a critical time.

During the pandemic, we recommitted to our mission and brought AirDoctor purifiers to communities in need, many of which were also impacted by wildfires, in our home state of California. To help, we donated more than 200 air purifiers to families, teachers, and medical professionals throughout the state. (AirDoctor air purifiers remove 99.97% of live COVID virus).*  

When it became apparent just how urgent the PPE situation was, we leveraged our own manufacturing to develop FDA-approved KN95 masks under Emergency Use Authorization. In 2020, we shipped 75,000+ masks to hospitals and healthcare facilities across the United States without any markup, and donated another 45,000+ masks to healthcare facilities, food banks, homeless shelters, and community organizations helping those on the front lines of the pandemic. 

We sat down with Ideal Living’s co-founders, Katie Williams and Peter Spiegel, to talk about the donations and why they see safe, clean air as a basic human right. 

Why is safe, pure indoor air important to our health?

Katie Williams: Think about this: You can live without food for weeks or months; you can live without water for a couple of days. You can’t live without air for more than a few minutes. Oxygen is a kind of nutrition that’s vital to keeping you alive. The first act of life is a baby’s first breath. Yet, we don’t often think about what else we’re taking into our lungs when we breathe. 

Breathing polluted air can be equivalent to smoking a pack a day of cigarettes. There are real health impacts on our physical and mental health. Indoor air can be up to 100x more polluted than outdoor air – simply due to everyday living and the contaminants created by items we have inside our homes, such as stoves, gas dryers, water heaters, cleaning products, building materials, and personal care products, to name a few. 

While we may not be able to see pollutants and contaminants in our air, the reality is that they are there and impact our health with every breath we take.  

How has COVID-19 changed the conversation around air purifiers and the importance of safe indoor air? 

Peter Spiegel: People started to realize that there are things in the air that we can’t see that can make us very sick. COVID-19 is one obvious example. The smoke and pollution caused by widespread wildfires is another example that is impacting people from coast to coast. 

These harmful contaminants require serious, dependable solutions.  That’s why AirDoctor invests in rigorous, scientific testing to prove that it is more than 99.97% effective in removing live COVID-19, smoke, and other contaminants from the air.*

Of course, these are just the obvious forms of air pollution. Katie mentioned others that we don’t think about that are equally insidious. People started to understand something that we have known at Ideal Living for a long time: that indoor air can be up to 100 times more polluted than outdoor air. To return to some semblance of normalcy, people wanted to purify the air in their homes, churches, community centers, and other places. It’s a sea change in how we view air quality.

What COVID-19 has also made visible is the stark inequalities that impact people’s health and wellbeing. The odds are stacked against underserved communities. That, like the quality of the air we breathe, is no longer invisible. 

Beyond air purifiers, what motivated you to contribute to the KN95 mask scarcity? 

KW: As the pandemic unfolded, our team was heartbroken to see doctors and nurses on the front lines begging for masks. How could we NOT do something to help?  We knew that we would find a way to get KN95 masks thanks to our extensive manufacturing partnerships and expertise in filters which use the same materials.   

We were shocked to see that in this time of great need, some companies reacted with greed– price gouging, and selling to the highest bidders. Only the richest communities and institutions could afford to purchase masks that were going at ten times their typical price. And the government was no help–it seemed to have been caught empty-handed, doling out a fraction of masks to just a couple states.  So, we didn’t wait around for someone else to take action – we leapt into action ourselves because it was the right thing to do. 

What did you do to produce KN95 masks?

PS: We already knew how to mobilize quickly and execute things on a large scale, so we were ready for this challenge. In California, our sourcing department barely slept for a week as they worked through the logistics. Our air purifier factory almost effortlessly converted to making masks instead (it’s interesting to note that the material used in masks is also used in our air purifier). Then, we had to jump through many regulatory hurdles to get them into the United States and into the hands of the people who needed them. 

Throughout the effort, we leveraged our ability to innovate, pivot, move nimbly, and always engage in continuous improvement. 

How did you identify places to donate and send masks to?

KW: Part of our purpose and mission is to support people in need. 

We turned to our existing healthcare partners to determine the areas of greatest need. Our employees also made recommendations to us to help build out our network of donations. We gave masks to healthcare facilities, food banks, homeless shelters, and community organizations helping those on the front lines of the pandemic. It was really powerful to see our community come together to help others, support others, and make change in our world. 

Our core belief is that everyone has the right to clean indoor air, and we are committed to bringing that clean air to those most in need. We extend our gratitude to our employees who brought this ethos to life through this effort. COVID will continue to be a challenge to daily life but we are happy that our AirDoctor family of products can help us all breathe easier.

*AirDoctor 3000 was tested & proven to remove up to 99.99% of a range of bacteria and viruses, including the H1N1 virus in third-party testing. Independent, third-party testing by MRIGlobal demonstrated AirDoctor 3000 removed 99.97% of the live SARS-CoV-2 virus from the air in a test chamber in under 90 seconds. AirDoctor does not claim to kill/prevent transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19). AirDoctor recommends using PPE & following directions of the CDC & other government authorities.

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