Ionizer Air Purifier Side Effects | How to minimize them?

Air Ionizers are one of the major types of air purifiers that are becoming increasingly popular. However, one of the biggest questions people have has to do with side effects – are there any side effects, what are they and how harmful are they? In this article we are going to take a deeper look at ionizer air purifier side effects.

Ionizer air purifiers (also called air ionizers / negative ion generators) have two side effects – ozone byproduct and that they can also make walls and furniture dirtier. Both of these are caused by negative ions. Most air ionizers emit ozone during the creation of negative ions.

Let us take a deeper look at why this happens and how to minimize these two side effects.

Ozone byproduct – the first main ionizer air purifier side effect

The biggest downside of any true air ionizer is that the vast majority of them emit ozone as a byproduct. Ozone is a fantastic thing when it is located way above us because it protects from harmful UV light. Up close, however, ozone has many harmful effects on the human body. We are not going to go into too much detail on this, but some of these include: inflammation, decrease in lung function, an increase of respiratory response rate, weakens the respiratory defense mechanism, increases asthmatic attacks… Ozone affects all people negatively, but kids and people with respiratory problems are even more at risk.

Ionizer Air Purifier Side Effects - ozone

So why does an air ionizer produce ozone? In short, it has to do with the element of ionization. The vast majority of air ionizers use either plasma, membrane, or a steel needle as the element of ionization. Not to go too deep into chemistry – these elements oxidize over time, releasing ozone in the process. This is why air ionizers produce ozone. If the needle is golden or the element of ionization is carbon – then there is no ozone byproduct, which is an ideal situation. Keep in mind that these kinds of ozone-free negative ion generators generally come with a higher price tag, which is usually justified. We wrote about this in more detail in our other post which can be found here.

How can we minimize or avoid this?

Well, the amount of ozone that ionizers release varies from model to model. Ideally, you would want one that produces no ozone – these exist on the market but they are quite rare and can be difficult to find. So when choosing an ionizer it is important (among other things) to pick one that has the lowest amount of ozone possible (ideally 0). The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires ozone output of indoor medical devices to be no more than 0.05 ppm. While this number seems very small and insignificant, we are still firm believers in getting a model without any ozone, especially if you have kids or anyone with respiratory problems.

Dirtier walls and furniture – the other big ionizer side effect

What do we mean by this? Let us explain. Harmful particles are (for the most part) invisible to the naked eye. However, once negative ions attach themselves onto them, they become quite bigger and even visible to our eyes. When these ionized harmful particles fall on the ground, they look like black dust. Air is not static but instead circulates which means that these particles do not fall down in a straight line. While most do end up on the floor, some of them end up on the wall. Once enough of this “particle dust” attaches itself onto the walls, the walls then become visibly dirty. The same goes for furniture, especially anything that is made out of wood and is white. This can be very hard, sometimes impossible to remove, unless you repaint the whole wall.

Some important things to note – not everyone experiences this side effect. It mostly depends on the following:

  • Air quality (pollution) – the more polluted the air, the more harmful particles it contains. More harmful particles = more ionized particle dust.
  • Number of negative ions – different air ionizers produce a different amount of negative ions. More negative ions = more ionized positively charged particles = more particle dust.
  • Season/time of year – spring and summer generally have cleaner air, while autumn and winter have dirtier air. So there is a higher chance to have more particle dust during cold months of the year. This is due to the extra air pollution caused by heating.

What can be done?

You can paint your walls with washable paint. This enables you to simply clean the particle dust with a single sweep of a piece of cloth, without any smearing. Other options include posters, wallpapers, or a transparent foil. The most important wall to secure is the one closes to the ionizer, as it will be affected the most.

If you have white wooden furniture then consider putting tablecloth over it to prevent the particle dust from ruining it. Another option is here is to simply move the air ionizer somewhere where it will not be in close proximity to any white furniture. Most ionizer air purifiers have a radius of about 2 m (6.5 ft) where this particle dust is the strongest. So just make sure that your furniture is out of that range. If your air is very polluted you can still experience this issue, however not as prominent as it would otherwise be.

Ionizer Air Purifier Side Effects – conclusion

Ionizer air purifier side effects are inevitable, but we can greatly reduce how severe they are. Consider buying an ionizer that uses an ionization element that does not emit any ozone. Otherwise aim for the lowest amount of ozone possible – the upper limit is 0.05 ppm. The lower the number, the better it is for you. If the ionizer is a good one with a lot of negative ions then be prepared to secure your walls and nearby furniture. Small investments into a simple tablecloth or washable paint will save you a lot of headaches in the future.

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The author is an Air purifier expert with overall knowledge of air and ionizers.