How Negative Ions Purify the Air
What are negative ions?
Negative ions are electrically-charged particles in the air that remove airborne contaminates from the air we breathe, and have a rejuvenating effect when interacting with physiological systems (such as the respiratory system).
Negative ions are odorless, tasteless, and invisible molecules that we inhale in abundance in certain environments. The worlds most tranquil and refreshing regions are loaded with billions of negative ions. Air near waterfalls, mountains, beaches and forests are among those places where ionization levels are in complete and natural balance.
After a lightning storm, most of us feel invigorated and refreshed. This is because the electrical storm has generated trillions of gloriously tranquilizing negative ions that ease tension and leave us full of energy.
Ions are molecules that have gained or lost an electrical charge. They are created in nature as air molecules break apart due to sunlight, radiation, and moving air and water. You may have experienced the power of negative ions when you last set foot on the beach or walked beneath a waterfall. While part of the euphoria is simply being around these wondrous settings and away from the normal pressures of home and work, the air circulating in the mountains and the beach is said to contain tens of thousands of negative ions; Much more than the average home or office building, which contain dozens or hundreds, and many register a flat zero.
"The action of the pounding surf creates negative air ions and we also see it immediately after spring thunderstorms when people report lightened moods," says ion researcher Michael Terman, PhD, of Columbia University in New York.
In fact, Columbia University studies of people with winter and chronic depression show that negative ion generators relieve depression as much as antidepressants. "The best part is that there are relatively no side effects, but we still need to figure out appropriate doses and which people it works best on," he says.
How Negative Ions Purify the Air:
Virtually all particles in the air have a positive charge, while negative ions have a negative charge. In which case, negative ions and particles magnetically attract to one another. When there is a high enough concentration of negative ions in the air, they will attract to floating particles in large numbers. This causes the particle to become too heavy to remain airborne. As a result, the particle will fall out of the air, preventing it from being inhaled into the respiratory tract where it can trigger breathing and health problems.
The ionized particle will then be collected by normal cleaning activities, such as vacuuming or dusting. If the particle happens to be kicked back up into the air again, it will be ionized, and quickly settled out of the air once again.
In nature, negative ions are generated by processes such as sunlight, lightening, waves from the ocean, and from waterfalls. "Concrete Jungles" minimize the natural production of negative ions by disrupting the delicate electrical balance between the atmosphere and the earth
Studies Proving the Effectiveness of Negative Ions
Negative ions help prevent respiratory-related illnesses.
In a study conducted in a Swiss textile mill, negative ionizers were placed in two, 60’ by 60’ rooms, each containing 22 employees. In one room, the negative ion electronic air cleaner was turned on during the course of the study. In the other room, the negative ion air purifier was permanently turned off, although the employees in this room were led to believe they were working in a room enriched by negative ions. During this six-month study, a total of 22 sick days were lost by employees working in the room in which the negative ionizer was operating. In the room where the machine was not operating, a total of 64 days were lost to sickness. During a month-long flu epidemic, the first group lost a total of 3 days to sickness, while the second group lost a total of 40 days to sickness (Stark, 1971).
In a test involving a Swiss bank office, one group of 309 worked in a negative ion-treated environment. A second group of 362 worked in an untreated environment. Over the next several months, for every day lost to respiratory illness (cold, flu, laryngitis, etc.) in group one, 16 days were lost to respiratory illness in group two (Soyka, 1991).
In a Surrey University study at the Norwich Union Insurance Group headquarters, eight negative ion generators were placed in the computer and data preparation section. Before the test, the research team spent a month compiling incident rates for complaints of sickness and headaches. During the test in which the negative ion air purification systems were in operation, incidents of sickness and headaches were reduced by 78%. After testing was completed, the Norwich Union opted to keep the negative ion electronic air cleaners (Soyka, 1991).
Negative ions counteract the effects of smoking.
High levels of negative ions neutralize the effect that tobacco smoke has on the cilia. Cilia are the microscopic hairs located in the trachea that move rapidly back and forth to prevent pollutants and toxins from traveling into the vulnerable areas of the respiratory tract. The faster the cilia move, the more effective they are. However, tobacco smoke slows down the cilia beat, diminishing the body’s ability to keep cancer-causing pollutants from entering the depths of the respiratory tract. Tests have shown though, that adding high levels of negative ions to the air accelerates the cilia beat to normal levels (Soyka, 1991).
Negative ions are a natural anti-depressant.
. . . and without the side effects!
In a study conducted by Columbia University, 25 people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Depression) sat in front of a negative ion air purifier for a half hour every morning for a month. Half the subjects were given a low level of negative ions, and the other half a high level. The higher level of negative ion treatment proved to be as effective against SAD as antidepressants, such as Prozac and Zolof, and without the side effects of these drugs (Finley, 1996).
Negative ions for a positive attitude
Positive ions, which are found in abundance in most indoor environments, cause an overproduction of serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps the body deal with mental, emotional, and physiological stress. An overproduction initially causes hyperactivity, which rapidly leads to anxiety, and in some cases depression. Negative ion treatment has proven to be successful in reducing the overproduction of serotonin, and therefore successful in alleviating depression in some cases (Kreuger, 1957).
Negative Ions help us to sleep better.
In 1969, French researcher found that the overproduction of the neurohormone serotonin caused sleeplessness and nightmares. In using a negative ion electronic air cleaner to treat a group of people experiencing sleeping problems as a result of serotonin overproduction, he found that most of them were able to sleep better (Soyka, 1991).
U.S. Dept. of Agriculture
A recent study by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture found that ionizing a room led to 52% less dust in the air, and 95% less bacteria in the air (since many of the pollutants found in the air reside on floating dust particles).
The U.S.D.A. also performed another study to test the effectiveness of negative ionization at removing airborne Salmonella Enteritidis. The negative ions drastically reduced the airborne salmonella particles, prompting the following statement from the USDA:
"These results indicate that negative air ionization can have a significant impact on the airborne microbial load in a poultry house and at least a portion of this effect is through direct killing of the organisms."
Good Housekeeping Magazine
In March of 1999, Good Housekeeping Magazine had its engineers test an ionizer by using a smoke test, and found that it cleared out the smoke in a tank.
Agriculture Research Service (of USDA)
The Agriculture Research Service of the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture tested the effectiveness of ionizers for removing dust in a poultry hatchery. The dust level is very high in such an environment. In this study, the use of an ionizer resulted in dust removal efficiencies that averaged between 81.1 and 92.2%. The airborne transmission of salmonella (to the eggs) was also significantly reduced as a result.
Journal of Hygiene
Scientists showed that ionization reduced bacterial levels in burns and plastic surgery units by over 96% after a two week period, which results in much better and more rapid healing of patients.
A 1976 study featured in this publication provided evidence that negative ions can have a biologically lethal effect on airborne microorganisms.
Journal of Hygiene
A 1979 study found that using negative ionization in the air protected chickens from airborne infection of the deadly Newcastle Disease Virus.
Journal of Food Protection
A 2001 study found that airborne negative ionization was highly effective at destroying airborne and surface salmonella.
Effect of Negative Ions on Drivers
A study by Toyota Central R & D Labs, Inc. found that negative ions can improve fatigue and cognition of drivers.
Related Industry Knowledge