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 â€” 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 air purifiers.
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, is produced.
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 â€” where they obviously don't belong.
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 air purifiers 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.