National Advertising Division Refers Advertising Claims by Guardian Technologies for its GermGuardian and PureGuardian Air Purifiers to FTC After Advertiser Refuses to Comply with Recommendations

New York, NY – Nov. 25, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has referred advertising claims made by Guardian Technologies, LLC to the Federal Trade Commission for possible enforcement action after the company stated it would not comply with NAD’s recommendations to discontinue certain HEPA performance claims for its GermGuardian and PureGuardian air purifiers and replacement filters.  This challenge was initiated by Dyson, Inc., maker of competing air purification products.

NAD is an investigative unit of the advertising industry’s system of self-regulation and is a division of the BBB NP’s self-regulatory and dispute resolution programs.

The express claims challenged by Dyson, appearing on Guardian’s website, product packaging, online retail sites and YouTube, included, but were not limited to:

Air Purifier Claims:

  • “AIR PURIFIERS WITH TRUE HEPA FILTERS BY GUARDIAN TECHNOLOGIES improve the air quality in your home and at work by capturing 99.97% of small, airborne particles like odor, mold and pollen.”
  • “The 3-in-1 Air Purifier with HEPA Filter is perfect for allergy sufferers. The filter captures 99.97% of allergens including pet dander, dust mites and pollen.”
  • “HEPA Filter captures 99.97% of dust and allergens as small as .3 microns such as household dust, pet dander, mold spores and plant pollens *Independent lab tested using Institute of Environmental Sciences and Technology– Contamination Control Division Recommended Practice 001.6 (IEST-RP-CC001.6), 2018.”

Replacement Filter Claims:

  • “NEW LOOK: HEPA filter continues to reduce allergens while the new yellow frame helps you identify that it’s a GENUINE HEPA Guardian technologies replacement filter.”
  • “Multiple levels of cleaning include a HEPA filter, Pre-Filter and Charcoal layer to help improve indoor air quality.”

Air purifiers are designed to reduce or remove airborne pollutants from the air, which can affect human health. Indoor air pollutants – a complex mixture of solid and/or liquid particles suspended in air – come from various sources, including cooking, cleaning, secondhand smoke, building materials, consumer products, and home furnishings. In this challenge, NAD assessed the truthfulness and accuracy of Guardian’s claims that its air filtration products offer High Efficiency Particulate Air (“HEPA”) filtration. In the U.S., HEPA is generally defined as a filter’s ability to capture 99.97% of airborne particles that are 0.3 microns in size.

In support of its HEPA performance claims, Guardian argued it conducted testing of its filters pursuant to the IEST 1.6 HEPA test method.  NAD evaluated Guardian’s IEST 1.6 testing and assessed whether its use of a salt-based test aerosol (a deviation from the test protocol) was sufficiently reliable and consumer relevant to support its HEPA performance claims.  While NAD acknowledged that deviations from industry standards can be appropriate in certain circumstances, NAD concluded that Guardian did not sufficiently demonstrate that its deviation from the IEST 1.6 protocol and use of KCl, a cubically-shaped, salt-based aerosol, yielded reliable or consumer relevant test results.

In addition to testing its filters with a salt-based aerosol, Guardian also provided evidence that it tested its filters for HEPA performance using polystyrene microspheres (“PSL”). NAD determined that there was a reasonable basis for Guardian’s use of PSL, but was troubled that its testing did not take any reliable measures to address the issue of dissipation of its filters’ electrostatic charge or confirm that its filters continued to meet HEPA performance standards when confronted with liquid or oily aerosols (both of which are found in residential air).  Therefore, NAD determined that Guardian did not adequately demonstrate that its IEST 1.6 testing using a PSL test aerosol provided a reasonable basis or was sufficiently consumer relevant to support its HEPA performance claims.  NAD also determined that Guardian’s dust loading filtration study was not sufficiently reliable to support Guardian’s HEPA claims.

For all of the foregoing reasons, NAD recommended that Guardian discontinue the challenged HEPA performance claims for its GermGuardian and PureGuardian air purifiers and replacement filters.

In its advertiser’s statement, Guardian stated that it “will not comply with NAD’s recommendations” and that it “disagrees with the conclusions of NAD.”  Guardian further stated that “not only did the NAD exceed its authority, but the NAD incorrectly interpreted the industry standards and disregarded the opinions of industry experts to reach a conclusion that is not supported by the evidence. Guardian will continue to advertise its HEPA filters relying on testing which substantiates the fact that the filters remove 99.97% of particles as small as .3 microns.” NAD was disappointed by the advertiser’s decision to not comply with its recommendations. In light of the advertiser’s decision, pursuant to its procedures NAD has referred the matter to the FTC for possible enforcement action.