It’s hard to decide which is the best air purifier for your home and that’s why it’s a good idea to understand the different types of technology available before making that decision. Air ionizers are a popular choice, but they have been surrounded by controversy in recent years. 

When first introduced, these devices received praise for their breakthrough technology, but over the last few years, enthusiasm has dimmed with questions raised about their safety.

We are going to look at just what an ionizing air purifier is, how it works and why it could potentially be a safety risk.

What Exactly Does an Ionic Air Purifier Do?

An air ionizer works by releasing negative ions that are electrically charged and attract harmful microscopic particles like dust, bacteria, pollen and to some extent, viruses.

When the ions interact with these particles, they become heavier than the air and that causes them to drop to the ground, accumulate on nearby walls, or fall on a collection plate if the air purifier comes with one.

Are there Health Concerns when Using an Ionizer? What are the side effects?

Removing harmful particles from the air we breathe is a good thing and if that was all that happened when an air ionizer was introduced into our homes there wouldn’t be anything to worry about. Things are a little more complicated than that though and there are good reasons why these filters are controversial.

Air ionizers emit ozone, which in small doses isn’t an issue, but anything more than 0.05 parts per million does pose a health risk. Increased ozone in our homes can cause breathing problems and can be a serious risk for asthma sufferers.

It’s a good idea to pay close attention to the fine print, to determine how much ozone the ionizing air purifier you’re planning on purchasing produces. 

The other potential health risk with an air ionizer is that it doesn’t remove the harmful particles from the room. The process temporarily removes particles from the air when they become heavier, but they can be reintroduced later if the particles are disturbed.

A collection plate does resolve this issue if cleaned regularly and you should make sure any ionizer you purchase has one.

Can Ionic Air Purifiers Help with Odors in The Home?

The short answer is no, an ionic air purifier is not effective at removing odors from the home.  The smells in your home come from gases that are much smaller than what these devices are capable of capturing. Charcoal-based filters are the best solution for tackling unwanted odors, not an air ionizer.

Pros and Cons of Ionic Air Purifiers

The jury’s still out on ionic air purifiers and even the experts find it hard to agree if they’re safe for use. Before considering one, it’s a good idea to know the pros and cons of these kinds of filters so that you can make an informed decision.

Ionizer Pros

  • Quiet operation
  • Removes particles less than 1 micron
  • No filters to change

Ionizer Cons

  • Introduces potentially harmful ozone
  • Can cause throat irritation and breathing problems
  • Not effective for removing odors

Are Ionizers Worth It?

An air ionizer that produces less than 0.05 ppm of ozone and comes equipped with a collection plate can help to make the air in your home healthier. Even these models aren’t perfect though and that’s why it’s difficult to recommend them as the best option for an air purifier. 

They won’t remove odors and they may cause some breathing issues than can cause health risks for asthma sufferers. Air purifiers that use a HEPA filter are a better option — they don’t have the same side effects and offer many other benefits. 

If you’d like to take a closer look at some of the best HEPA air purifiers available, you can check out our reviews. Three of our top recommendations are the Coway AP-1512HH, RabbitAir MinusA2, and the Dyson Pure Cool TP04. Each one offers a range of great features.