Honeywell Settles FTC Charges It Made Unsubstantiated Efficacy
and Allergy Relief Claims for Room Air Purifiers
FTC News Release
December 17, 1997
Honeywell, Inc., of Minneapolis, Minnesota, has agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges that the company made unsubstantiated efficiency and allergy relief claims for its Honeywell Air Purifiers — portable, room air cleaners designed for use in homes and offices, which contain enviracaire® True HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters. Honeywell is one of the country's leading manufacturers of air purifiers.
According to the FTC, advertisements for Honeywell's air purifiers claimed that its products remove nearly all, or "99.97%," of the impurities from the air that people breathe, including mold spores, dust mite allergens, bacteria and viruses. The FTC also charged that Honeywell's claim that its air cleaners provide noticeable allergy relief was deceptive. Indeed, according to the FTC, there is no conclusive evidence that air cleaners are an effective method for treating allergy sufferers. The proposed agreement to settle these charges would prohibit Honeywell from making any representation regarding the efficacy, benefits, or performance of any air cleaning product without reliable evidence to substantiate the claim.
According to the FTC's complaint detailing the charges, advertisements for Honeywell Air Purifiers that appeared in national magazines and on national television contained such statements as:
- "There are some places a wash cloth just can't clean. Even squeaky clean on the outside, your kids are still exposed to mold spores, dust mite allergens — even bacteria and viruses. They're in the air inside your home. But you can help protect your children with a Honeywell Air Purifier. Our exclusive enviracaire® True HEPA filter can remove 99.97% of these impurities. … And while you're keeping their ears clean, we'll help do the same for their lungs"; (print ad)
- "While you're busy cleaning everything in sight, we could be taking care of what you can't see. The filter in a Honeywell Air Purifier removes nearly all impurities from the air." [A super "99.97%" appears on the screen and dissipates like dust.] "Honeywell. A home's not clean without it"; (tv ad)
- "Ideal for allergy and asthma sufferers. Exclusive Patented 360 Degree Air flow. Efficiently scrubs the room free of air pollutants"; (label) and
- "Honeywell air cleaners provide proven relief of allergy symptoms." (Internet ad)
The complaint alleges that, through such statements, Honeywell falsely claimed that it possessed and relied upon a reasonable basis to substantiate its claims that:
- The filter in a Honeywell Air Purifier removes 99.97% of mold spores, dust mite allergens, bacteria and viruses from the air that people breathe under household living conditions; and
- The filter in a Honeywell Air Purifier removes nearly all, or 99.97%, of impurities from the air that people breathe under household living conditions.
In fact, the 99.97% figure refers to the filter's expected efficiency in removing particles that actually pass through the filter. While the filter's efficiency is a factor in assessing the effectiveness of an air purifier in particulate removal, the FTC charged that this figure overstates the actual effectiveness of an air purifier in removing pollutants from the air in a user's environment. According to the FTC's complaint, the actual effectiveness of an air purifier depends on a variety of factors, including the amount of air that the air purifier processes, the nature of the pollutant, and the rate at which the pollutant is being introduced into the environment.
In addition, the FTC alleged that Honeywell did not possess a reasonable basis to substantiate its allergy relief claims. There is no guarantee that individuals suffering from allergies or other respiratory problems will derive a discernable reduction in symptoms through the use of these, or other air purifiers. According to the FTC, whether individuals will derive such relief depends on many variables, including the source and severity of their allergies, the rate at which the allergens are emitted into their homes or offices, whether the allergens tend to remain airborne, and other environmental factors.
The proposed agreement to settle the allegations would prohibit Honeywell from making certain efficacy claims about Honeywell Air Purifiers, enviracaire® True HEPA filters, or any other air cleaning product which is normally used for personal, family, or household purposes, unless at the time of making the claims it possesses and relies upon competent and reliable scientific evidence. Furthermore, claims that state or imply a level of performance under any set of conditions, such as household living conditions, must be substantiated by evidence that either relates to such conditions or that was extrapolated to such conditions by generally accepted procedures.
In addition, the proposed settlement would require Honeywell to possess and rely upon competent and reliable evidence, and when appropriate, scientific evidence, for any claim regarding the benefits, performance, or efficacy of any air cleaning product which is normally used for personal or household purposes. Finally, the proposed settlement contains a number of recordkeeping and reporting requirements designed to assist the FTC in monitoring compliance with the terms of the order.
The Commission vote to accept the proposed agreement for public comment was 4-0.
This matter was handled by the FTC's regional office in San Francisco.
- In the Matter of Honeywell. FTC File No. 962-3154.
This page was posted on December 14, 2005.