Vividair News & Articles

HEPA Filters - The Importance of Air Quality for IVF Labs

In 1978, the first in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) baby was born, since then the importance of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) has grown as techniques and success rates continue to advance.

All cells, including gametes (sperm and egg) and embryos (bundles of cells), are extremely sensitive to laboratory conditions. Temperature, pressure, the composition of the agent they are handled and grown in, and the quality of air – all play a role in pregnancy success rate.

HEPA Filters - Air quality in IVF Labs

Effects of Air Quality in IVF Labs

The quality of air in IVF labs has significant effects. In addition to the indoor pollution, outdoor pollution can drastically impact the embryo and the success rate of an IVF treatment.

An embryo grown in a laboratory is exceptionally vulnerable to outside influences because it lacks the protection normally given by the mother’s body. This becomes even more significant in cases where the embryo is grown to the blastocyst (five day) stage – a stage thought to achieve more successful pregnancies when implanted than earlier embryos.

Therefore, it is the duty of IVF lab managers to ensure optimal air quality and limited airborne contamination at all times.

How does air quality in IVF labs affect treatment success rates?

When looking at people who smoke cigarettes – they require twice as many IVF attempts to achieve success when compared to non-smokers.

That immediately tells us that pollution is a potent factor in the IVF process.

Cohen et al in 1997

A monumental paper by Cohen et al in 1997 examines how the relocation of their lab and the use of adhesive during a floor replacement in a building close-by released enough airborne contaminants to lower pregnancy rates.

Further experiments on the effects of floor tile adhesive were conducted using mouse embryos. These experiments brought more insight into the impact adhesive had on the development of embryos – with the product arresting growth of more than 90 percent of embryos at the two-cell stage.

Brazilian air quality study

A study done in Brazil indicated that exposure to another airborne contaminant – i.e. particulate matter (PM10s) exhibited an increase in the chance of miscarriage amongst women after both natural conception and IVF treatment.

A more recent study revealed that exposure to nitrogen dioxide pollution aka traffic exhaust fumes both around an IVF lab and at a woman’s home lowers IVF birth rates.

The majority of research has focused primarily upon the effects Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), fine particles and nitrogen dioxide have on the success rates of IVF – with VOC levels over one part per million leading to poor development in both mouse and human embryos.

VOCs – Types and Sources affecting air quality in IVF labs

VOCs are gases and are therefore invisible and do not settle as particles and dust do. This is problematic as surfaces may appear to be perfectly clean yet they could be contaminated by VOCs produced from within the lab or from nearby rooms and even neighbouring buildings.

There are several different VOCs that have the potential to compromise air quality in an IVF lab. These include but are not limited to; formaldehyde, isopropanol, hydrocarbons such as xylene, and refrigerant components.

Compromising VOCs sources include:


  • Medical gases
  • Steel cabinet bases
  • Construction materials
  • Furniture
  • Carpets
  • Cleaning products
  • Instrument packs


Additionally, construction/renovation of IVF labs and neighbouring rooms/buildings have the ability to generate substantial levels of VOC pollution.

Resulting in VOCs present in embryo culture and the incubators used to grow vulnerable embryo to the blastocyst (70-100 cell) stage before even being implanted in the womb of a woman receiving IVF treatment.

Further sources of pollution that affect the air quality of IVF include fine particles (less than 0.1 microns in size). Again, fine particles are present both within the lab and in outdoor pollution.

HEPA Filters the solution for improving air quality in IVF labs

The Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) regulations decide levels for dust and particles in workplaces. As set out by the COSHH, VOC levels in IVF labs must be below 0.5ppm and preferably below 0.2ppm.

Regulations differ for labs involved in cell culture.

The first step in improving air quality in IVF labs is to have monitors and counters assessing levels of both VOCs and particles in place.

Levels of pollution must be controlled by either preventing their entry entirely or removing them successfully once they have entered the lab.

Depending on the location and characteristics and location of the lab, technologies such as High-Efficiency Particulate Air filtration (HEPA filters) is effective for fine particle management, with activated charcoal absorption technologies successfully managing VOC levels.

What evidence is there that improved air quality in IVF labs can improve success rate?

In the Netherlands a study was done on the impact carbon-activated air filtration systems had on cattle IVF. A hospital grade air purification system was used and placed in an incubator along with 7 embryos.

Overall, the pregnancy rate was significantly higher.

Vivid Air – Quality Air Filtration Systems & HEPA Filters South Africa

Although there is still research to be done regarding air quality and the impact it has on IVF treatment and success rates, outdoor pollution and a woman’s exposure to it can only be regulated with effective air filtration systems.

Conditions inside IVF labs and especially incubators must properly monitors and efficient air purification systems used to increase IVF success rates.

Vivid Air offer quality air filtration systems to South African IVF labs including HEPA filters.

Additionally, we provide Cleanroom Validations and have ISO 14644-3 certified clean room technicians equipped with the latest calibrated testing equipment to perform turnkey cleanroom validations.

For more information about our products and services, please contact us.

Comments are closed for this post, but if you have spotted an error or have additional info that you think should be in this post, feel free to contact us.


Get the latest updates in your email box automatically.



CloseCOVID-19 Corona Virus South African Resource Portal