Much has been made of the benefits of ionic air cleaners. They've been touted as simple, silent alternatives to the scientifically-backed HEPA air purifiers on the market. Anyone who watches television, listens to the radio, or peruses their local mall has doubtlessly run across ads for this erroneous technology. What this heavy marketing fails to explain, however, is that ionic air cleaners don't really clean the air. In some ways they may even make it more toxic to breathe.
Why Buy Air Purifiers
Traditionally, people who purchase air purifiers are concerned about their respiratory health. Often they already have a condition that is exacerbated by airborne pollutants. Such conditions can include asthma, allergies, and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, among many others. They get personal air purifiers to clean the air in homes and offices in order to help manage their condition. And as greater numbers of people become aware of problems like indoor air pollution, more buy air purifiers of their own.
Ionic Air Cleaner
Ionic air cleaners supposedly have two benefits. First, they operate silently. Second, they don't require filters. The marketing for these purifiers claims that they use innovative technology to clean the air. Looking closer, these claims simply don't make sense. Ionic air cleaners don't use fans to circulate the air. Their sales pitch is that they depend on a constant release of negatively charged ions. Such ions attract dust, pet dander, and pollen and then stick to the collection plates inside the cleaner, thus removing them from the air. All of this happens without filters or other moving parts. It would be remarkable, if it actually worked.
Problems With Ionic Cleaners
Advertisements for ionic air cleaners claim that the negatively charged ions will be attracted to the collection plate inside the cleaner. People have actually been lead to believe that these cleaners are cleaning the air. In fact, those negatively charged ions will be attracted to anything positively charged, like television screens and tabletops. So they don't, in fact, remove the particles from the air to the plates – they merely shift the contaminants to other parts of one's home. Indeed, because they don't use fans, ionic air purifiers can only affect the air immediately around them. Pollutants further away from the cleaner remain unaffected. That's hardly an efficient means of improving one's indoor air.
The Ozone Issue
A common byproduct of ionic air cleaners is ozone. Most people think of ozone in the context of the ozone layer, which protects the Earth from the sun's harmful radiation. That's the good kind of ozone, but there's also another kind: low level ozone, which is found close to the Earth's surface. This is the bad kind of ozone, recognized by both the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization as an environmental pollutant. The Mayo Clinic has stated that inhaling even small amounts of ozone can irritate one's lungs. It can cause coughing, shortness of breath, throat irritation, and it can even increase one's risk of a respiratory infection. Given that many people buy air purifiers to help improve their respiratory health, it's quite problematic if the purifier actually worsens it. There's a reason allergists, immunologists, and other health professionals don't recommend ionic air purifiers: they won't help relieve respiratory issues.
HEPA Air Purifiers: The Better Choice
Thankfully, the choice is not between ionic air purifiers and nothing at all. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers are a safe, proven way to improve indoor air pollution. They've been thoroughly cleaning air for decades, ever since they were first developed during the Manhattan Project to remove radioactive particles from the air. To get a HEPA rating, they must filter out 99.97% of airborne particles as small as 0.3 microns. These purifiers do use fans and filters, for a very good reason: they actually remove airborne pollutants from the air. Pollutants are trapped in the filters rather than ending up in one's lungs. A HEPA air purifier removes airborne irritants and provides breathable, healthy air for anyone concerned about what gets in their lungs. They're even recommended by organizations like the American Lung Association. People should be skeptical about the dazzling claims spread by the heavy marketing of ionic air cleaners. New does not equal better; in this case, it really just equals more money spent on an inferior product. The hype sounds good, but it won't produce clean air. Only HEPA air purifiers will do that, like the ones sold by Clean Air Plus. Choose wisely and go with the tested, safe, effective way to improve indoor air quality.