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Continuous in-home PM2.5 concentrations of smokers with and without a history of respiratory exacerbations in Iowa, during and after an air purifier intervention



Americans spend most of their time indoors. Indoor particulate matter (PM) 2.5 µm and smaller (PM2.5) concentrations often exceed ambient concentrations. Therefore, we tested whether the use of an air purifying device (electrostatic precipitator, ESP) could reduce PM2.5 in homes of smokers with and without respiratory exacerbations, compared with baseline.


We assessed PM2.5 concentrations in homes of subjects with and without a recent (≤3 years) history of respiratory exacerbation. We compared PM2.5 concentrations during 1 month of ESP use with those during 1 month without ESP use.


Our study included 19 subjects (53–80 years old), nine with a history of respiratory exacerbation. Geometric mean (GM) PM2.5 and median GM daily peak PM2.5 were significantly lower during ESP deployment compared with the equivalent time-period without the ESP (GSD = 0.50 and 0.37 µg/m3, respectively, p < 0.001). PM2.5 in homes of respiratory exacerbators tended (p < 0.14) to be higher than PM2.5 in homes of those without a history of respiratory exacerbation.


Subjects with a history of respiratory exacerbation tended to have higher mean, median, and mean peak PM2.5 concentrations compared with homes of subjects without a history of exacerbations. The ESP intervention reduced in-home PM2.5 concentrations, demonstrating its utility in reducing indoor exposures.

Novelty of study

Our work characterizes PM air pollution concentrations in homes of study subjects with and without respiratory exacerbations. We demonstrate that PM concentrations tend to be higher in homes of participants with respiratory exacerbations, and that the use of an inexpensive air purifier resulted in significantly lower daily average PM concentrations than when the purifier was not present. Our results provide a helpful intervention strategy for purifying indoor air and may be useful for susceptible populations.

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Fig. 1: Log-transformed PM2.5 concentrations during and after ESP deployment.
Fig. 2: Average daily, average peak daily, and median peak daily PM2.5 concentrations, grouped by respiratory exacerbation status; to be considered within the exacerbator group, subjects had experienced ≥ 1 exacerbation per year within the previous three years (2015–2017), while non-exacerbators had not experienced any exacerbations within the prior three years.

Code availability

To access the available code used in our analysis, please contact the corresponding author.


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We would like to thank all study participants for their willingness to maintain both the Foobot and ESP device throughout the study period.


This work was partly supported by the Origins of Cystic Fibrosis Airway Disease PPG grant (HL091842-11) funded by the National Institutes of Health. Additional funding for this study was provided by The University of Iowa Institute for Clinical and Translational Science, NIH U54 TR001356, and the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center, NIH P30 ES005605.

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Correspondence to Emma M. Stapleton.

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Stapleton, E.M., Simmering, J.E., Manges, R.B. et al. Continuous in-home PM2.5 concentrations of smokers with and without a history of respiratory exacerbations in Iowa, during and after an air purifier intervention. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol 30, 778–784 (2020).

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  • Particulate matter
  • Pulmonary disease
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Air pollution (or Air quality)
  • Exposure assessment


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