Are air ionizers and other air purifiers effective at cleaning the air? Is there any evidence that such machines lead to improved health or wellbeing?


Before I bought an air purifier a few years back, I found a Consumer Reports test of such machines, including several filter-based models and at least one ionizer. The ionizer received a failing grade. According to Wikipedia, the manufacturer subsequently sued Consumer Reports for product defamation and lost. I don't have the Consumer Reports article anymore, but if I remember correctly, the only effective air purifiers were filter-based. Only a few models had much effect, and only when the fan was run at the highest (and loudest) speed.

We have had a filter-based air purifier (made by Sears) for about three years. It cost about $300, and the annual filter cost is about $150. It is effective in the sense that the filter does get dirty, but my (subjective) impression is that its cleaning effect is small compared to regular vacuum cleaning and dusting. We haven't noticed any health improvements—but we didn't have dust allergies or other dust-related health problems either.

Apparently there have been studies into high levels of negative ions as a treatment for seasonal-affective disorder. I have not read the papers or otherwise evaluated the research, and I don't know if commercially available air purifiers produce anions at the levels that are claimed to be clinically relevant.

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  • The larger the particle, the more easily it falls out of the air and is deposited on a surface where it will not be collected by any type of recirculating air filter or purifier. The smaller particles that you don't notice are not only more easily filtered by such devices (because deposition takes longer and reentrainment is likely) but also are "dirtier" from a health perspective (though not from an aesthetic perspective). In other words, surface cleaning and air purification are overlapping but distinct tasks; no air purifier will eliminate the need for sweeping/dusting/vacuuming. – Air Dec 9 '15 at 22:27

My ionizer probably did clean the air -- the walls near it were starting to turn gray with all the fine dust particles settling down. However, I didn't notice any change in my wellbeing. I heard somewhere that someone even sued one of the companies that sell these ionizers for false claims that use of ionizers improves health.

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