Although they enjoyed enormous popularity at first, ionic air
cleaners have been the for the past
several years. Recently, they have even been involved in a
high-profile class action lawsuit involving the Sharper Image and
its Ionic Breeze air cleaner.
Increasingly, consumers are becoming aware that these types of air
purifiers are not their best option not only because they are not
as effective as manufacturers claim, but also because they actually
contribute to harmful indoor air quality. However, despite numerous
articles warning against the dangers of ionic air purifiers, many
consumers stand staunchly by their units; some companies even
continue to recommend them.
In an effort to clear the air, so to speak, let's explore some key
issues related to ionic air purifiers.
The Popularity of Ionic Air Cleaners
Probably the three most desirable characteristics or selling points
of ionic air cleaners were that they are quiet, energy efficient,
and don't require replacement filters. In addition, and somewhat
ironically, ionic air cleaners produce "evidence" of their
effectiveness black residue, which results from the negative ions
attaching to the airborne molecules in the air, collecting
pollutants, and then clinging to nearby surfaces. But as we shall
see, these apparent boons come at quite a cost.
How Do Ionic Air Cleaners Work?
Ionic air cleaners emit a steady stream of negative ions into the
air. These negative ions attach to airborne molecules, making them
negatively charged and attractive to nearby positively charged
particles. As this attraction occurs, clumps form, thereby
collecting the pollutants and other contaminants in the air.
Eventually the molecules become heavy and fall to the floor or land
on nearby surfaces, consequently forming dirty surfaces in the area
surrounding the air purifier.
Negative ions occur naturally, near waterfalls or after it rains,
for instance, and have positive effects on humans, animals, and the
environment because they create oases of pure air. However, ionic
air cleaners aren't so benign. Specifically, they generate ozone,
which when released into indoor air and inhaled, is a powerful lung
irritant that actually exacerbates allergies and asthma.
Not only do ionic air cleaners produce ozone as an undesirable
byproduct, but they are not even particularly effective at removing
other pollutants from the air.
Ionic Breeze Air Cleaners: Controversy and Lawsuits
As far back as 2005, many magazines published findings showing that
ionic air cleaners posed health hazards. For instance, CNN reported in April 2005, "Consumer Reports said it tested ionizing
air cleaners for ozone levels and for their ability to remove dust,
cigarette smoke and pollen from the air, and Sharper Image's
Professional Series Ionic Breeze Quadra SI737 SNX is one of five
products that was ineffective as air cleaners."
Similarly, USA Today reported, "Popular and expensive ionizing air cleaners a staple of
late-night infomercials could expose users to lung-damaging levels
of ozone, and they do a poor job of actually cleaning the air,
according to a study in the May issue of Consumer Reports."
In fact, the Consumers Union, a product testing group that tests
products for the much-acclaimed Consumer Reports, concluded back in
2003 that ionizing purifiers do a poorer job of removing smoke,
dust, and other pollutants from the air than their advertising
suggested. Subsequently, Sharper Image filed a lawsuit against the
consumer group. It was thrown out of court, and Sharper Image agreed
to pay about half a million dollars in court costs.
About five years later, the adverse findings regarding ionic air
purifiers finally caught up with the Sharper Image to the point that
they were forced to declare chapter 11 bankruptcy. Their sales had
declined steadily since 2004, and the settlement of a class-action
suit against the company by owners of the Ionic Breeze air cleaner
(in which the Sharper Image agreed to remit a $19 merchandise credit
to every consumer who purchased the unit between 1999 and January
2007) seems to have sealed the deal.
The prolonged nature of the controversy, as well as the widespread
coverage of the Sharper Image's financial trouble, has helped to
spread and confirm the news about ionic air purifiers' risks. For
no-health-risk alternatives, see our own wide selection of
The Dangers of Ionic Air Cleaners
The main health concern related to ionic air purifiers is the fact
that they produce ozone as a byproduct. In the upper atmosphere,
ozone protects us from ultraviolet rays; that's why we're concerned
about depleting ozone levels and are aware of the need to be
extra-cautious in protecting ourselves from the sun in areas where
ozone damage is particularly bad.
However, ozone in indoor air, where it's inhaled directly into the
lungs, poses significant health risks. In fact, the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) classifies ozone as a
toxic gas that causes lung damage, triggers asthma attacks, and
can even lead to an increased risk of death. Not only is ozone
harmful if inhaled, but it also creates additional problems. For
example, when ozone reacts with common household chemicals such as
carpet fumes or even cooking oil, formaldehyde, another toxic gas,
Furthermore, ionic air cleaners also create ultra fine particles,
which penetrate into the lungs when inhaled. In this way, chemicals
from household items like cleaning products and air fresheners find
their way deeply into our bodies where they obviously don't
Alternatives to Ionic Air Cleaners
Here at AchooAllergy.com, we would certainly never recommend a product
that claims to alleviate breathing problems but actually contributes
to them. Our wide selection of
is sure to meet your specific needs and preferences; and you can be
sure that none of them will pose any hazard to your health. Explore our
site or call our knowledgeable and friendly customer service team to
discover which options are best for you.