NY AG Warns Air Purifier Sellers To Stop COVID-19 Claims

Law360 (March 26, 2020, 6:46 PM EDT) -- The New York attorney general on Thursday ordered three companies that sell air purifiers to immediately stop making claims that they can prevent the spread and contraction of COVID-19, saying those representations could put consumers in jeopardy.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said AllerAir Industries, Airpura Industries and Sylvane Inc. are misrepresenting to customers that the novel coronavirus is a primarily airborne disease and that air purifiers can remove virus particles from the air. However, studies from health organizations across the world have determined that the primary way the virus is transmitted is through respiratory droplets, not through the air, which makes these claims deeply misleading to consumers, James said in a statement.

A representative for Sylvane told Law360 it’s a retail outlet for small appliances, not a manufacturer and that they had republished in a blog post information provided by air manufacturers about the use of their units in medical settings overseas.

“We were contacted by the New York Attorney General as there was a concern that the republished information might lead to confusion or misinterpretation,” the representative said. “We made the requested clarifying changes the same day, and we are grateful for the provided guidance.”

Representatives for the other two companies did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Thursday.

While the World Health Organization does recommend medical workers take airborne precautions while on the job, the companies do not make that distinction and mislead consumers into believing that these products will be effective in other places.

“This omission may mislead consumers into purchasing units that have limited usefulness in protecting them and their families,” James said.

The letters ordered the companies to immediately cease and desist from making the misleading claims because they violate New York consumer protection laws. The companies were also advised to add language to their websites clarifying that the air purifiers may be the most effective in medical environments.

The companies were given 10 days to respond to the attorney general’s letter.

Last week, the attorney general's office ordered Alex Jones and his online InfoWars store to stop peddling products falsely claiming to cure or treat the novel coronavirus, noting federal health officials haven't yet identified a vaccine for COVID-19.

Jones falsely claimed on his online show that items including DNA Force Plus supplements, Superblue toothpaste and Silversol products act as a "stopgate" against the virus and "kill the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range," according to a cease-and-desist letter and an accompanying announcement from the attorney general's office.

The office said it was "extremely concerned" by Jones' misrepresentations, noting the coronavirus pandemic poses serious public health risks and has families desperate for ways to protect themselves. Health officials worldwide say there is currently no medicine to treat the disease, the letter noted.

James’ office has also hit The Silver Edge Co. and a purported doctor in Oklahoma with similar cease-and-desists, saying their health claims violated New York's deceptive advertising laws.

The Silver Edge allegedly claimed its Micro-Particle Colloidal Silver Generator "beats coronavirus" and that there's "clinical documentation" backing the assertion, James said.

Sherrill Sellman, a self-described naturopathic doctor in Tulsa, Oklahoma, allegedly marketed colloidal silver products as a cure for the virus and sold them on her website and on the religious TV program "The Jim Bakker Show," James said.

James also ordered two New York City merchants to stop charging excessive prices for hand sanitizers and disinfectant sprays. Ace Hardware in midtown Manhattan was charging customers nearly $80 for a bottle of hand sanitizer, while City Fresh Market in Astoria, Queens, was charging almost $15 for a 19-ounce bottle of disinfectant spray, according to James' office.

--Additional reporting by Jack Queen. Editing by Amy Rowe.

For a reprint of this article, please contact reprints@law360.com.

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