What is an air ionizer?

A air ionizeralso called purifier or ozonatoris a home device intended for air cleaning and purification. Conventional purifiers use physical filters, ionizers instead use ions (electrically charged particles) to remove microscopic particles from the air and make it healthier.

Ionizers, and air purifiers in general, are usually recommended for people with asthma, allergies and other respiratory diseases, although in many cases there are doubts about their effectiveness.

How do ionizers work?

How does an air ionizer work?
How an air ionizer works (YouTube)

The operation of air ionizers is based on the electrostatic attraction between particles with electric charge of different sign. The ionizers create negative ions (anions) using the electricity supplied by the domestic electrical network.

These anions are released into the air where attract positively charged particleshow are they dust, bacteria, pollen and many others allergens and substances that may be suspended in the air.

By binding with the ions, the particles become too heavy to remain in suspension and they fall to the ground. To clean the floor, it is recommended to vacuum or mop but not sweep to avoid lifting the particles and returning them to the air. Furniture and other surfaces should be cleaned with damp cloths.

Ozone formation and its potential danger

Most of the particles present in the air of the lower atmosphere, where we are, have a positive charge. Some natural phenomena, such as electrical storms or the effect of sunlight on waterfalls, generate negative ions, mainly ozone (O3), which purify the air naturally. Ozone is responsible for the smell of fresh, clean air that occurs during thunderstorms or near fast-flowing watercourses.

Building insulation blocks the free circulation of atmospheric air, also preventing the passage of these naturally formed negative ions. Air ionizers try to reverse this imbalance by artificially generating negative ions, including ozone. In addition to helping remove particles from the air, ozone also hinders the growth of germs and deodorizes the environment.

Keep in mind that ozone is a highly reactive molecule which can be hazardous to health at relatively low concentrations.

In fact, the United States NIOSH (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health) has established the maximum concentration of ozone at just 0.1 ppm in 24 hours.

Exposure for 1 hour to airborne ozone concentrations greater than 50 ppm is estimated to be lethal to a healthy person.1.

Due to their potential danger, air ionizers must be approved and with a verified ozone production below 0.1 ppm (most produce less than 0.05 ppm). In any case, it is not recommended to use air ionizers in bedrooms or rooms where long periods of time are spent sleeping.

Possible health benefits

Numerous health benefits are attributed to air ionizers, although many of them have not been proven and for others they are even counterproductive.

One of the most common claims is that they reduce and improve the symptoms of allergies. While it is true that ionizers can remove small particles from the air, have not been shown to be effective in eliminating of heavier particles such as pollen grains or dust mitesthe most common allergens in domestic environments.

In the case of asthma and related respiratory problems, air ionizers can even worsen symptoms due to the ozone they produce and particulate matter combined.

For both allergies and asthma, they are much more effective purifiers with HEPA filters (High Efficiency Particle Arrestance), the same ones used in airplanes to reduce the spread of diseases by recirculating air inside the airplane.

HEPA filters are also the filters of choice in medical facilities, although air ionizers have also shown efficacy in reducing the transmission of bacterial infections in medical equipment.

Air ionizers have also been associated with improved mood. Although more detailed studies are needed, there is evidence that breathing air loaded with negative ions can reduce symptoms of anxiety and depressionas well as improve sleep.

One of the pioneers in studying the health effects of negative ions in the air was Albert Paul Krueger, who conducted numerous studies in the 1970s and 1980stwo.

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