BBB National Programs Archive
NAD Recommends Molekule Discontinue Pollution Elimination, Asthma and Allergy Symptom Relief Claims for its Molekule Home One Air Purifier; Advertiser to Appeal Certain Findings
New York, NY – Oct. 25, 2019 – The National Advertising Division has recommended that Molekule Inc. discontinue its pollution, bioaerosol and VOC elimination/destruction claims (both quantified and otherwise), performance claims concerning its MH1 Air Purifier (MH1), its comparative superiority claims versus air purifiers that contain HEPA filters, and its allergy and asthma symptom relief claims, following a challenge by Dyson, Inc., maker of competing air purifiers. The advertiser has said it will appeal certain NAD findings and recommendations to the National Advertising Review Board but will comply with other recommendations.
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 claims challenged by Dyson were made in website, YouTube videos, social media, testimonials, and other online advertisements. Molekule’s MH1 products use a pre-filter and a Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) filter, whereas Dyson’s air purifier products rely on High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters and carbon filters. NAD noted that consumers purchasing air purifiers seek to improve indoor air quality by removing airborne pollutants like pollen, bacteria, and mold and that it is critical that they receive accurate information about the devices they purchase – particularly in matters that impact their health.
Dyson challenged four categories of Molekule’s pollution elimination claims: (1) bioaerosol elimination claims, such as claims that the MH1 product or the PECO technology, as deployed in the MH1 product, completely “eliminates,” “destroys,” or “permanently removes” all indoor air pollution or any specific bioaerosol; (2) quantified bioaerosol elimination claims appearing in a panel on the molekule.com website showing a chart for each bioaerosol, detailing the MH1 device’s performance, and showing that the specific bioaerosol was completely eliminated (reduced to 0%); (3) VOC elimination claims, including “Independent lab results have shown that PECO destroys VOCs quickly and efficiently”; and (4) claims regarding the MH1 device’s performance in large rooms, such as “Made for large rooms. Molekule is able to completely replace the air in a 600 square foot room (large living room) once an hour.” NAD concluded that the evidence provided by the advertiser was insufficiently reliable to provide a reasonable basis for its impactful pollution elimination performance/efficacy claims and recommended that these claims be discontinued. NAD noted that issues in the testing submitted by Molekule called into question whether the Molekule Air Purifier would have the benefits it claims in its advertising when it is used by consumers under real-world conditions (i.e., in their homes).
Dyson also challenged claims by Molekule that its PECO technology is superior to HEPA technology, including claims such as “HEPA filters can’t trap small pollutants. Many harmful pollutants such as VOCs are smaller than 0.3 microns. HEPA filters can’t remove them” and “[T]hings like mold and bacteria gather and grow in those HEPA fibers and escape back into the air to continue to do you harm.” Given the context in which the challenged comparative claims and communications appear, NAD determined that these claims reasonably convey the message that competing air purifiers employing HEPA filters are inferior in efficacy to the advertiser’s MH1 with its PECO technology. In support of its claims, the advertiser relied on the results of in-house comparative PECO versus HEPA testing, outside testing and studies, and literature. However, NAD determined that such evidence was not sufficient to substantiate claims about product performance for either PECO or HEPA, or Molekule’s comparative superiority claims of PECO versus HEPA (technology or air purifier products as marketed for sale) and recommended they be discontinued. NAD also recommended that the advertiser avoid any language characterizing the use of HEPA air purifiers as dangerous or deleterious to consumer health or reasonably conveying such unsupported messages.
NAD also considered whether the advertiser provided competent and reliable scientific evidence in support of challenged claims that its product can provide allergy and asthma symptom relief, which appeared on the advertiser’s molekule.com website via establishment claims and in numerous locations on the internet (including YouTube and Facebook) via consumer and physician testimonials. Such claims included, for example “Real people. Real proof. Our beta trial was conducted on 28 participants including asthma and allergy sufferers. After using Molekule, there was no difference in total symptom score between allergy and non-allergy sufferers. Results point to the potential for Molekule to immediately improve allergy sufferers[‘] quality of life.” NAD determined that Molekule’s allergy and asthma symptom relief establishment claims, “Real people. Real Proof,” and claims referencing (explicitly or implicitly) its Beta Trial and Expanded Study, were unsupported and recommended that they be discontinued. NAD noted that the advertiser did not provide important information on its Beta Trial and Expanded Study (two human studies conducted by the advertiser), the small study population was insufficient to provide reliable support for Molekule’s broad allergy and symptom relief claims, and there was an absence of blinding. Further, NAD concluded that the evidence in the case record did not provide reliable support for the consumer and doctor testimonials containing allergy and asthma symptom relief claims and recommended that they be discontinued.
In its advertiser’s statement, Molekule stated that it will comply with certain recommendations and appeal other findings and recommendations to the NARB. Molekule stated that it will appeal NAD’s decision concerning the pollution elimination claims, including the bioaerosol and VOC elimination claims, but agreed to implement NAD’s recommendations regarding its quantified pollution elimination claims (including the bioaerosol and VOC elimination claims), and its “independent testing” claims (i.e., “Independent lab results have shown that PECO destroys VOCs quickly and efficiently” and “Independent testing reveals Molekule’s PECO technology successfully destroys mold, bacteria and viruses”). Further, Molekule stated that it will appeal NAD’s decision regarding the claim that “Molekule is able to completely replace the air in a 600 square foot room (large living room) once an hour.”
The advertiser also stated that it will appeal NAD’s findings and recommendations concerning “its references to HEPA technology,” because it “did not intend to make claims about specific devices of competitors, particularly those that combine use of HEPA with other technologies. Molekule intended only to explain that its PECO technology destroys pollutants whereas HEPA technology collects pollutants and has particle-size and other limitations—a distinction that is important for consumers to understand.” Finally, Molekule stated that it “will comply with NAD’s recommendation to discontinue the challenged allergy and asthma symptom claims.”Note: A recommendation by NAD to modify or discontinue a claim is not a finding of wrongdoing and an advertiser’s voluntary discontinuance or modification of claims should not be construed as an admission of impropriety. It is the policy of NAD not to endorse any company, product, or service. Decisions finding that advertising claims have been substantiated should not be construed as endorsements.