With the public's increasing concern about indoor air quality and personal health, ionic air purifiers have flooded the market, claiming to do a better job than traditional air purifiers. For people with allergies or breathing difficulties, an air purifier can be a good decision, but is an ionic air purifier the best solution? Are there dangers in using this type of air purification system?
An ionic air purifier, also called ionisers, ozonators, or ozone air purifiers, work differently than traditional air filter purifiers. One major difference is that they do not use filters as the method of pulling impurities or allergens out of the air. The ionic method disperses ions, or particles with a static electricity charge, into the air. Most models disperse negatively charged ions into the air that bond with particles such as dust, pollen or other allergens. Once the particles have attached to the ions, they become heavy, fall to the ground and can be swept up, vacuumed, or otherwise disposed of. Depending on the models, some use of a fan and some don't. Models without fans are typically silent while operating. Some models also rid the air of impurities with the dispersal of ozone into the air.
The biggest concern about ionic air purifiers is the levels of ozone being dispersed into the home. The danger lies in increasing the ozone level in a confined space. The EPA says, "Relatively low amounts [of ozone] can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections." The symptoms are typically short-lived and usually lessen once the person leaves the impacted area, but prolonged exposure to high levels of ozone can cause more serious damage.
The EPA has done extensive research into the issue of ozone generators as home air purifiers. Home ozone levels should never exceed .10 parts per million (ppm). In order to minimise the risk of high concentrations of ozone, case studies show that if proper ventilation was used or if the unit was used in a very large room, ozone levels were close to the recommended levels. Many people who own ozone air purifiers tend to use them at their maximum capacity, even in small areas, which can generate ozone levels up to .50 to .80 ppm, much higher than the recommended levels.
There are several things to consider before purchasing an ionic air purifier.
Ventilation: Due to the well-documented dangers of increased ozone in an indoor setting, it is imperative that the room in which you put your purifier has proper ventilation to disperse the ozone and lower the concentration to safe levels.
Ozone vs. Non-Ozone: There are ionic air purifiers that do not generate ozone. This can be a safer alternative if you don't want to use an ozone-generating model.
The facts regarding ionic air purifiers are fairly straightforward. Ozone as a means of air purification can be damaging to your health. Second, even when following manufacturer's instructions, safe ozone levels can be exceeded. Third, when the ozone levels are within the recommended safety levels, ozone has been shown to be ineffective as a tool to remove impurities in the air. The EPA's recommended solution is a combination of "source control, outdoor air ventilation, and air cleaning" using a HEPA-type filter.