Ionizer Air Purifiers - Are They Dangerous?



I started purchasing ionizer air purifiers over 30 years ago. Back then my allergies and asthma were so severe I'd try anything. Did the ionizer work? Nope. In fact it irritated my lungs (in a moment you'll know why). Years later the Ionic Breeze purifier made the name "ionizer" popular. However this Sharper Image model was removed from the airwaves for irritating peoples lungs like mine. But not all ionizers cause this problem.

The Problem: Ozone

What's the difference between negative ions, ionizers, and ozone? There is a lot of confusion amongst consumers, but what started the confusion was the following problem:

Some "ionizers" (the washable "plate" kind) often create dangerous levels of ozone.

Obviously before you buy one let's get clear about the dangers of ionizers, and the misunderstandings between ionizers, ozone machines, negative ion generators, and what each can do. Ozone and Ions are different.

What Is Ozone?

Ozone is oxygen (O2) with an unstable molecule added making it O3. And it's the ozone molecule (also created by lightning) that can irritate lungs. So while ozone can also clean the air the way they work is different from ionizers. Some Air Purifiers are known as "ozone generators" because they specifically produce ozone and are effective for killing mold, mildew, smoke and odors.

Several ozone generators are available for sale today with popular names such as Alpine, Ecoquest, Vollara (all the same company) as well as several no-name brands from China. The ozone molecules, by the way, go out into a room and kill odor, they don't work inside the machine itself.

Ozone is a good tool for "treating a room" especially in cases of mold. But too much ozone can irritate lung tissues and airways.

What Are Ionizer Air Purifiers?

Ionizer Air Purifiers are units that use electrically-charged steel plates (+ and -) to attract pollution and odor molecules. It works because many toxins have charges (+ or -) making the plates operate like magnets. Ionizers include the Oreck with its truman cells (plates), the infamous Ionic Breeze, and just about any air purifier called ionic (although the term ionic is tossed around a lot). These plates are usually washable.

Unfortuantely the flat "ionic plates" have a tendency to create ozone as a byproduct of the positive electrical charge. So even though these manufacturers weren't trying to create ozone it happens. For that matter many appliances like refrigerators and TV's can produce some ozone.

Pros and Cons of Ionizer Air Purifiers


1 - Easy Maintenance - Washable

2 - Good for smoke &odor


1 - Barely works on Dust, pollen (no HEPA)

2 - Expensive (poor value)

3 - Often creates threatening Ozone (check the reviews here to find out)

4 - Won't help remove viruses, or germs (no UV)


So you can now see that an ozone ionizer air purifier is different from an ozone generating air purifier. The first creates some ozone, but is more geared toward attracting dirt, odor and pollutants onto it's charged plates. An Ozone air purifier doesn't have plates or grids, but simply produces ozone which goes out into the room and destroys odors, smoke and pollutants in the room.

Ionizer Air Purifiers Compared

Q: Which Air Purifier is Best for Me?

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