Are Ionic Air Purifiers (Ionizers) Safe or Bad for Your Health?


The real reason why many people think that ionic air purifiers are dangerous is the lack of understanding of what these devices actually are and how they work. Also, they are often confused with ozone generators, which actually emit ozone, which can be harmful to humans and pets when used inappropriately.

Ionic Air Purifier Dangers

Overall, it is safe to say that most ionic air purifiers being offered on the market in 2022 are safe to use and will not harm your health.

Standard ionic air purifiers emit negative ions in the air, which help sterilize and clean the air inside. It is a completely different air purification method than HEPA filtering. Air purifiers with HEPA filters have fans that draw the air inside to the filter and then disperse it back out in the room.

On the other hand, the ionic air purifier emits negative ions, doesn’t have a filter that needs replacement, and doesn’t have a noisy fan.

Unlike ozone generators, ionic air purifiers can safely be used when you and your family and pets are inside of the room, home, or other areas. With ozone generators, it is recommended that you and all animals leave the house during the ozone production and until the ozone is converted back into safe and fresh oxygen.

Negative ions are harmless even if inhaled. In fact, we already inhale a bunch of them naturally, especially when the air we breathe is exposed to rain, sunshine, waterfalls, or light.

The negative ions are actually known to help boost the mood as well as the energy levels, apart from cleaning the air in your home or office.

Related article: Top picks for high-quality air purifiers

So, are ionic air purifiers actually safe?

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The answer to this question is that it depends on whether the purifier is an ionizer only or an ozone generator. Also, it depends on whether your ozone producing ionic air purifier allows you to turn off or adjust the ozone production.

Ozone generators are excellent devices for sanitizing the air and for the removal of strong odors from fires, water damage, mold, pets, smoke, cooking and others, but it is essential to use them in accordance with the recommendations of the manufacturer, and leave the premises along with everyone else (pets included) while the machine is working, and until the ozone has been transformed back into oxygen.

But if you want an ionic air purifier which you can use while you and everyone else is inside safely, then opt for a machine that does not generate ozone, or if it does – the ozone production can be adjusted or turned off.

Here is the history of ionic air purifiers

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Part of the problems people seem to have with ionic air purifiers is due to past events, which could affect their opinions on whether these machines are truly safe.

The Ionic Breeze controversy

One of the main reasons for this fear is the controversy surrounding the Ionic Breeze ionic cleaners, which were introduced to the market in the 1990s through multiple infomercials and commercials. They were sold by Sharper Image and quickly gained huge popularity in the US and around the world.

The company was the first to start educating the public about the benefits of using negative ions for air purification. Pretty soon, the trendy device entered nearly all homes in the country, especially after the company went to huge lengths to educate them about how unhealthy and even dangerous polluted indoor air can be.

The problem came in 2005 when Consumer Reports performed tests with the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze air purifiers and claimed that the device actually produced unhealthy amounts of ozone, which posed a risk for the people and animals exposed to it.

Consumer Reports actually made a claim that the Ionic Breeze devices were further polluting the indoor air in homes and commercial spaces rather than purifying it.

Pretty soon after the results of the tests came out, a lawsuit was filed against Sharper Image. Unsurprisingly, in 2008, the company filed for bankruptcy, even though its lawyers and management never agreed to the claims made by Consumer Reports. In fact, Sharper Image maintained its claim that their Ionic Breeze is completely safe for use indoors.

The discovery made by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

A few years after the Ionic Breeze controversy, the US Environmental Protection Agency began assessing and testing the air purifiers being offered on the market.

The EPA found that some of the manufacturers labeled their appliances as air purifiers rather than as ozone generators in order to sell more of them.

These manufacturers made the consumers believe that it is completely safe to use these devices indoors even when there were people and pets inside.

However, none of them admitted that too high levels of ozone in an enclosed space could lead to serious health issues in humans and animals. The dangers from overexposure to large concentrations of ozone in people include asthma attacks, pain in the chest, difficulty breathing, impaired respiratory function, and throat irritation, as well as an increased risk of developing respiratory infections.

The agency proceeded to set the standards to guide the public about the acceptable levels of ozone, measured in ppm (parts per million).

The standards set by EPA are as follows:

  • No concerns for 0 – 0.05 ppm of ozone
  • Moderate concern for 51 – 100 ppm of ozone
  • Hazardous concentration for 100 ppm and more

These set standards suggest that people should not be exposed to more than 0.05 ppm of ozone in order to prevent the possible risks for their health and the negative side effects.

This is why consumers need to pay attention to the type of ionic air purifier they are buying, especially whether it produces ozone or not, and if it generates it, how much it emits, and whether it can be adjusted.

Ozone generators are safe to use if you follow the directions of the manufacturer closely and if you let them work without being indoors during the production of ozone and while it transforms back into clean oxygen.

The best way to ensure that the people and animals inside are safe is to turn off the ozone generator or lower its emission to the lowest and safest setting.

So, when you are choosing an ionic air purifier, it is important to pick a device that allows you to have complete control over the ozone and the negative ions emitted at all times.

Ionizers and pets

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Keep in mind that many small pets have much more delicate respiratory systems than ours, which is why you should be careful when choosing an air purifier for a home with pets. An ozone generator can kill small pets and birds, like parrots, parakeets, flying squirrels, etc.

Too much oxygen produced by ionizers can be harmful to birds, so if you have decorative birds at home, it is best to stay away from ionic air purifiers or ozone generators.

If you need an air purifier for pets, you may want to stick to one with a True HEPA filter, especially if you have pet allergies or asthma, or a purifier with an activated carbon filter, if you want to get rid of the persistent unpleasant pet odors in your home.

For dealing with pet hair and feathers, you can buy an air purifier with a HEPA type filter and pre-filter, which will successfully capture and trap the loose hairs flying in the air.

See also: The Most Perfect Vacuums for Pet Hair

Sensitivity to negative ions

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Babies and young children who have underdeveloped respiratory systems can be at risk of harmful effects from inhaling too many negative ions.

There are also adults who are particularly sensitive to large amounts of negative ions and may feel discomfort and difficulty breathing when they are inside a room where an ionic air purifier is working.

This is why you should experiment and choose the most appropriate level of negative ions to be emitted by your ionic air purifier which you and your family feel comfortable with.

Once again, this is why you should choose a device that has adjustable levels of ion production if you want to be comfortable and safe when using it in your home or office.

Final words

As you can see, when used properly, an ionic air purifier can be completely safe and beneficial for your health and wellbeing. Even if it does produce minimal amounts of ozone (under the federal standard of 0.05 ppm) – you can still be in the house along with your family when the purifier is on.

Choosing a device that you can have full control of and which you can adjust in accordance with your preferences and needs is key to eliminating any ionic air puffier dangers.

Also, understanding the difference between an ionic air purifier and an ozone generator is another important factor that will ensure that you buy the most appropriate air purifying device for your needs and that you will be able to use it safely at all times.

So, good luck with your choice of the perfect ionic air purifier, and enjoy the benefits of these quiet, energy-efficient, inexpensive and safe air-cleaning devices so that the air you breathe inside is healthy, free of bad smells, harmful microorganisms, allergens, and other pollutants!


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