When buying an ionic air purifier (also known as an air ionizer) it’s natural for you to question if these products are safe to be around.
And if they pose any potential dangers for your health.
It’s no surprise that the technology behind ionic air cleaners is what makes them seem so scary.
In fact, there was a controversy over these products back in the 1990s and a lawsuit was filed against Sharper Image in regard to their Ionic Breeze model.
We’ll explain what that was all about as well as answer the question, “Are ionic air purifiers safe?” in this post.
By the end, you’ll have all of the information you need to make a well-informed decision on if you should use an ionizer or not.
The Short Answer
Most ionic air purifiers (ionizers) are completely safe and not bad for your health. They emit negative ions into the air as a way to clean it which is harmless to you. They’re often confused with ozone generators which emit high levels of ozone that can be bad for health.
If you’re looking for a cheap ionic air purifier that’s safe to use, you can find our recommendations for the best ionizer air purifiers here.
See all of Amazon's Best Selling Air Purifiers
A More Detailed Answer:
Are Ionic Air Purifiers Safe?
By design, most ionizers produce negatively charged ions and emit them into the air as a way to clean and sterilize it. However, some ionic air purifiers work in a different way by drawing air into the system with a fan and collecting pollutants on a set of metal plates or collection rods.
This process is a radically different method of air purification than a HEPA air purifier which uses a fan to draw air inside the unit and a dense filter to collect the airborne pollutants before pushing fresh air back into a room.
(You can learn all bout the differences between air ionizers, ionic air purifiers, and HEPA air purifiers on our in-depth guide on ionic air purifier vs HEPA.)
With a cloud of negative ions being pumped into the air, questioning are ionic air purifiers bad for your health is a justified response.
Another common concern is if ions are really safe to inhale or not.
The good news is that you have nothing to worry about when it comes to breathing in negative ions.
In fact, negative ions already occur naturally in our environment. In nature, ionization happens when air is exposed to energy sources like sunshine, lightning, and waterfalls.
Negative ions have a long history of being known for increasing energy and improving moods, in addition to cleaning the air you breathe.
So, are ionizers safe? Or are they bad for your health?
The honest answer is that it depends.
The only catch is that air ionizers are safe to be around if they fall into one of the following categories:
- It’s just an ionizing device and doesn’t include an ozone generator
- If an ozone generator is included, the device lets you control the level of ozone production
All of the products we recommend or review on our site meet the above criteria and are safe for you to use.
For example, if you go with any of the best ionizer air purifier models, you have zero ionic air purifier dangers to worry about in regards to your health.
If you want to learn more about the topic of ionizers, you can visit our page on what is an air ionizer.
Air Ionizer Dangers
The most common air ionizer dangers include throat irritation, coughing, chest pain and shortness of breath, as well as an increased risk of respiratory infections. However, these ionizer air purifier side effects only occur if you inhale ozone. Not all ionic air purifiers pose these dangers. Only ozone generators are a concern.
So if you want to eliminate all risks and side effects associated with an ionizer, then be sure to get a unit that doesn’t produce ozone, or at the very least, produces low levels of it.
Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Ozone Danger
To help you understand why the information above is so important and what can make an air ionizer bad for health, you’ll want to read the next two sections.
The first part goes over a recent mishap in the ionizer industry.
And the second reveals a dishonest practice that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency discovered was happening in the air purification marketplace.
In order to stay safe, you’ll want to educate yourself on these topics.
A Controversy Over Ionic Air Purifiers
In the 1990s, a company called Sharper Image introduced a line of ionic air cleaners called Ionic Breeze, which were highly rated by consumers.
Through a series of infomercials and TV advertisements, Sharper Image was able to sell a ton of these ionic air purifiers to consumers.
A lot of credit goes to the company for being the first one to educate the masses on the importance of home air purification.
Before the development of the Ionic Breeze not that many people had an air ionizer in their home.
This was mainly due to the fact that a majority of the public was ignorant of how unhealthy indoor air can really be.
Eventually, the trend caught on and ionic air purifiers were popping up in homes everywhere.
However, in 2005, a test was performed by Consumer Reports on these air purifiers from Sharper Image and made claims that an Ionic Breeze model produced unhealthy levels of a by-product called ozone.
And that ozone production made this air ionizer a health risk for anyone who bought it.
That claim meant that the ionizers contaminated the air instead of making it safe for people to breathe.
A short while later, a class-action lawsuit was filed against Sharper Image, and finally in 2008, the business filed for bankruptcy.
Sharper Image never agreed to the claims made by Consumer Reports and continued to say that their ionic air cleaners were safe for household use.
The EPA Makes a Startling Discovery
A few years later, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) started assessing purifiers in the market.
The agency discovered that some manufacturers labeled “ozone generators” as “air purifiers” in order to sell more products to the mass market.
The manufacturers of these ozone generators made people believe that these devices were always safe to use indoors to remove airborne contaminants.
However, what they left out was the fact that high concentrations of ozone inside a house can cause serious health issues in humans.
In particular, some of those health problems include:
- Pain in the chest
- Irritation of the throat
- Impaired lung function
- Asthma triggers
- Shortness of breath
- High likelihood of getting respiratory infections
As a result of these effects, the following set of standards were developed by government agencies to guide the public on what level of ozone exposure is acceptable (measured in parts per million):
- Hazardous Amount = 100 ppm and above
- Moderate Concern = 51-100 ppm
- No Concern = 0-0.05 ppm
These standards indicate that people shouldn’t be exposed to ozone amounts higher than 0.05 ppm, otherwise serious health impacts may occur.
Therefore, you should be careful when purchasing an air cleaning product that’s labeled as an “ionizer” and look at the technical specifications to find out if it produces ozone or not.
This little bit of research is the surest way to find out are ionizers safe when it comes to a particular model.
As we mentioned earlier, the products we suggest on our site are safe for home use and don’t present any ionic air purifier dangers.
Below is a more detailed explanation of why that’s true for the two top air ionizers recommended on our site.
The Ivation Ionizer and Ozone GeneratorThis product has the advantage of offering both ionization and ozone generation as ways to purify the air inside your house.
What makes it safe, however, is the fact that it gives you total control of the levels of ozone and ions released into the room.
The best way to ensure safety with this purifier when there are people at home is to make sure that the level of ozone produced is at its lowest setting.
When no one is at home, you can set the ozone generator to its highest level so it can work to destroy the most indoor pollutants.
Once people are present inside again, shut the ozone production off in order to prevent any unhealthy side effects.
Any residual ozone leftover from the full blast will fade away.
This device’s ionization control can be set and re-set for any level of ion production.
Some people are sensitive to high amounts of negative ions, so find the setting that you’re most comfortable with inside your home.
The O-ION B-1000 Ionic Air PurifierThis device only has ionization functions and no ozone generator.
This means that you never have to worry about unhealthy levels of ozone being produced in your house.
It does produce a small level of ozone as a by-product, but it’s below the federal standard of 0.05 ppm.
This is one of the most highly-rated ion purifiers and is safe to use indoors.
It’s also very cost-effective for both homeowners and anyone living in an apartment.
Summary – Shop with Confidence
If you read through this entire post, congratulations. You now know more than the general public about how to determine if an air ionizer is bad for health or not.
You should also feel confident shopping for an ionic air purifier without the fear of buying something that could potentially harm your health.
Obviously, the two products we recommended on this page are highly rated and great picks, but they’re not your only options. Check out the best air purifier list to compare the top products.
If you’re looking for something different and want to make sure it’s safe, just follow the tips we outlined above and you’ll end up with a great device for your home.
Now you know the answer to the question, “Are ionic air purifiers safe or bad for you?”