People with asthma often look to air purifiers to help ease their symptoms. On the whole, this is a good strategy – but if you have asthma, you should be aware that ionic air purifiers could pose a risk to your health.
When ionic air purifiers were first on the market, they really gave HEPA filters a run for their money. Ionic purifiers are quiet and energy efficient, and they don’t require filters to work. It wasn’t long, however, before problems with them started to come out. The biggest problem is the fact that they release ozone as a byproduct, and ozone is proven lung irritant, not to mention something that doesn’t quite mesh with the idea of improving indoor air quality.
The vast majority of ionic air purifiers emit ozone at extremely low levels. Most people will never notice it, nor will it affect their health.
Ozone exposure can contribute to the development of a variety of respiratory issues.
But for people with existing respiratory issues – like asthma – ozone emissions is something you need to think about. (The EPA has found that ozone – even in small amounts – can contribute to asthma complications and development of lung disease.)
How Ionic Air Purifiers Work
Ionic purifiers are pretty hi-tech. They shoot out a continuous flow of negatively charged ions that they connect with airborne contaminants, making them negatively charged as well. Over time, the contaminants in the air that are now negatively charged group together, become heavy and fall to nearby surfaces. They’re removed from the air, but not from the room and tend to create a sort of film on items around the room that can then be stirred back up into the air.
Ionic air purifiers sound great, but the downside is that the ionization process produces ozone; in order for ionic air purifiers to produce the negatively charged ions they use to purify air, they emit ozone as a byproduct.
The Issue with Ozone
Ozone is great as the protective “bubble” that keeps out the deadly rays of the sun in the atmosphere, but when it comes down to earth into the air you breathe, ozone is bad for you. It is especially bad for people with allergies and asthma.
Ozone exposure can contribute to the development of a variety of breathing problems such as coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain and an irritated throat. If you breathe it on a regular basis it can make existing respiratory problems, like asthma and allergies, worse.
What You Can Do
The American Lung Association has warned in the past of exposure to ozone and resulting health concerns, so it stands to reason that it doesn’t really make sense to use an ionic air purifier if you’re pre-disposed to ANY respiratory issues.
After all, there’s no reason to introduce a known irritant into your home if you can help it. There are simply other air purification systems out there that will do the same job but without the added health concerns that accompany ozone exposure.
Photo by NIAID via Flickr CC License
I will NEVER use ionic purifiers…the point of an air purifier is to get stuff like ozone OUT of the house, not bring it in. Right?? I’ve heard mixed things about the ionization process as well… That’s my two cents