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What is an Ionizer?
An Ionizer is an electrical device that sends out positive and negative charges into the air. These charges cause particles to join forces with each other. When this happens, they also gain mass. Because of the increased mass, the particles are then caught by the air purifier. Two smaller particles may have avoided its grasp, this is why ionizers can be effective. However, there are two main concerns with this, health and dirt.
A distinction has been made between Air Purifiers with Ionizers, and Ozone-Producing Air Purifiers, which use ozone to clean and mask smells. If you’ve ever had a bad smell in your car and taken it in for treatment, there’s a very good chance that they used ozone ionization to treat the odor. If that’s the case, they probably also warned you (or should have) about spending too much time in your car after the treatment unless you were driving with the windows open.
What is ozone? Why is ozone dangerous?
Ozone is a kind of oxygen that protects the Earth from dangerous forms of light. This happens in the upper atmosphere. Ozone is not present on the ground or in buildings. Here it can have bad side effects on your health. Specifically, ozone can cause and worsen problems with your lungs, throat and and internal air passages.
The American Lung Association notes that prolonged exposure to ozone may lead to lots of things you don’t want: “premature death, asthma, respiratory infections, breathing and respiratory problems. While anyone can be affected by this, it is mostly young children, teens, older people, and those with pre-existing breathing issues who have greater sensitivity to ozone.
What the difference between “Air Purifiers with an Ionizer” and “Ozone Air Purifiers”?
Air Purifiers with an ionizer tend to include another – usually HEPA – filter. HEPA filters are adept at catching the larger particles after they have been charged. If you decide to buy one, and you are concerned about the risk of ozone, you should ensure that the air purifier you buy has the ability to turn off the ionizer while the other filter stays on.
Different kinds of ionizers emit different amounts of ozone while operating. Certain government organisations have set what amount of ozone poses health risks, and what level falls acceptably below that risk. For example, certification from the California Air Resources board can mean ozone emissions are less than 0.050 parts per million.
This certification and emission rate is obviously preferable to not knowing at all, or one that is appreciably higher. You don’t want an air purifier that produces a lot of ozone.
Other downside to ionizers?
Yes! In making the particles bigger so that the HEPA filter (or other filter) can catch the particles more efficiently, the particles become heavier, and can often cover the room. This is good because it means those particles are not being breathed in. However, it creates a mess you may want (or need) to clean up.
This is why we never recommend an ionizer to be used in a nursery, children’s room or where elderly people, or people with breathing issues live or sleep. The ozone risk aside, unless you have a baby who cleans up after itself (!), then you won’t want to have to deal with this issue in using your ionizing air purifier.
People still want ionizers. Manufacturers still make them because there is demand. They are also effective at eliminating smells, and increase the efficiency of HEPA filters at catching larger particles. Given the downsides, we recommend you never buy an ionic air purifier that can’t be turned off. If you do use ionization (whether it creates a material amount of ozone or not) we don’t recommend that you use it in places where high risk persons can be exposed to ozone (babies, kids, teens, elderly and people with respiratory problems).