Ionic air cleaners are often considered an easy solution to purify air. But many of us are not aware about the working methodology of these cleaners and the risks associated with them. This article provides a brief idea about all these aspects.
Air cleaners have gained popularity because of the increasing pollution in urban areas. Around 1/4 of the diseases are spread through air. These devices are used for air purification. They remove dust particles and allergens from the air. Many types of air cleaners are available which work on different principles.
Mechanical air filters: They mostly remove dust from the air by capturing it on a filter medium. HEPA filters feature under this category.
Electronic air filters: These are mostly used for removing the dust particles and pollutants. Ionic cleaners fall in this category.
Gas-phase air filters: They are mostly used for removing harmful gases and odors from the atmosphere.
UGVI cleaners: These use ultra-violet light to kill ‘living’ pollutants such as virus and bacteria.
Ozone generators: These are solid state cleaners which produce ozone by default.
How Does It Work?
Many people confuse ionic cleaners with ozone generators, but there is a lot of difference between them. Ionic air cleaners work on a principle similar to static electricity. They emit negative ions, which collide with the dust molecules in the air. The molecules become negatively charged and are attracted to the positive charged plates inside the machine. Almost all surfaces like T.V, furniture is positively charged and hence, dust particles settle on these surfaces also. This is the reason why the area around the cleaner becomes dark. The cleaners contain electrostatic precipitators, which trap dust particles on the oppositely charged metal plates. Some cleaners use a fan mechanism for this purpose. They are highly efficient because they do not need replacement filters; they are energy saving and silent.
Associated Health Risks
Even the best quality ionic cleaners are known to generate ozone. Ozone is very useful in the stratosphere, but not the atmosphere near us. Pure ozone is highly toxic to human beings. Ozone causes shortness of breath, pain in chest, coughing, and irritation in throat. Prolonged exposure to ozone can cause severe damage to the lungs. People who use these cleaners in small rooms are at a higher risk. In small rooms with poor or no ventilation, the ozone build-up is much higher than the normal levels. Ozone also reacts with materials such as carpet, cloth, PVC tiles, and ceramic tiles.
Sergey A. Nizkorodov, a renowned professor of chemistry in the University of California, had conducted research on the health risks caused by these cleaners. He says, “If 30 parts per billion of ozone exist in the room because dirty outside air is leaking into the house, turning on an air purifier that generates 50 parts per billion of ozone creates a total ozone level of 80 parts per billion.”
You must have seen many ads about companies promising devices that can clear the air of all allergens and dust molecules. But this is not always true. There is a constant debate about whether ionic cleaners actually perform what their companies promise. According to many medical practitioners, they are not effective in removing the dust particles more than a few feet away. Even if small particles of dust enter the machines, the metal plates quickly lose their power to attract more particles. The only exception to this are the cleaners with fans.
These cleaners are not at all recommended if you have an allergy or asthma. The traditional HEPA air filters are a better option. One alternative for these cleaners is increasing the ventilation of the rooms.