A Person Who Seeks To Promote The Welfare Of Animals Ionic Air Purifiers – Safety First

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Ionic Air Purifiers – Safety First

Strange but true. It is very, very difficult to find well-organized, properly documented scientific research on the technologies behind ionic air purifiers, a multi-million dollar global industry!

Strange because if the science is solidly grounded, I would expect every ionic air purifier manufacturer to trumpet the scientific basis of their brand. I would expect them to explain the efficiency and effectiveness of their unique technology. Furthermore, I would expect them to assure the user that their technology is completely safe, that they kill germs but are completely harmless to human beings. Unfortunately, my expectations have not been met.

True because I have spent countless hours searching for technical scientific papers supporting the technologies behind existing ionic air purifiers on the market and yet I have very little to show for it. Whether on purpose or not, marketers of ionic air purifiers simply don’t bother to put scientific papers on their websites. Where they do, they make no distinction between the safety, efficacy and effectiveness of their specific brands. Scientific references are only briefly mentioned and do not provide enough detail for study by serious potential buyers of the particular air purifier. It’s like the manufacturers don’t expect anyone to question and scrutinize their products!

Scientific research inaccessible

Where I have come across relevant scientific research papers on the web, they are not readily available as they usually come at a prohibitive cost, being charged on a per article basis! I suppose if I am an entrepreneur looking to produce a new ionic air purifier, I would be willing to invest in the hundreds and perhaps thousands of technical papers shown on the web pages of several scientific journals. But I’m just looking for a reliable safe product to buy for my personal use!

It is unfortunate that the scientific world is also commercially driven so that research of great importance is not made freely available to all who are interested or need to know.

Logical criteria

However, although my head is still spinning from the flood of vague and confusing information on the Internet, my search for the ideal air purifier continues, according to these criteria:

(1) Safety – the ionic technology of the air purifier should not cause bodily harm to the user;

(2) Efficacy – ionic air purifier technology has been lab tested to really work based on some thorough scientific research;

(3) Effectiveness – ionic air purifier technology has been successfully transplanted from the laboratory to a device that will deliver the same results in a user environment, e.g. home, office, factory, school, etc.

Security Issues

In this article, I want to focus on the safety of ionic air purifiers, a factor that I believe outweighs the other two criteria of efficiency and effectiveness. There is no point in having something that works wonderfully at eliminating germs but is so powerful that it harms our health. Two important questions must be answered:

(1) Do the purportedly beneficial active agents of ionic air cleaner technologies cause damage to human tissue? Are Negative Ions, Bipolar Ions, Hydroxyl Radicals, Sharp’s Patented Plasma Ions, or whatever name they go by, safe?

(2) Do the unwanted byproducts of ionic air cleaner technologies cause any harm? Byproducts include ozone and nitric oxides that are highly reactive and known to be harmful in high concentrations.

Beneficial active agents – Do they damage human tissue?

There is no scientific data available on the web as to whether negative ions, bipolar ions, hydroxyl radicals, plasma cluster ions, etc. are safe in that they do not damage human tissue. There is a lot of data showing that these active agents effectively eliminate microbes, a topic I will address in a later article. Here I am concerned that the protective power of active agents is equally destructive to fragile human tissue. Why is there so little scientific data when consumers spend millions of dollars on ionic air purifiers every year?

After extensive but fruitless internet research, I did the next logical thing – ask the manufacturers of ionic air purifiers! From several questions, the answer slowly became clear – the scientific data exists, but the manufacturers do not want to make it public lest they incur the wrath of animal welfare groups! Is this a real fear or are they hiding some unpleasant truth about their product?

Googling “animal testing” immediately threw up huge controversies about the use of animals in testing the safety of products intended for human beings. One such example would be that of Huntingdon Life Sciences, a UK research company that conducts safety tests of commercial products, pharmaceuticals and household appliances. To this day, there is much conflict between testing companies and animal welfare groups. No wonder the cloak of secrecy from ionic air purifier manufacturers, who likely conduct safety tests using similar testing companies.

Documented animal testing

A random internet search result helped me better understand the animal testing controversy. The safety tests mentioned on the website relate to a liquid product, not directly related to any ionic air purifier technology. The liquid is applied to furniture and other household appliances. In explaining one of the benefits, it is claimed that when ultraviolet light in sunlight shines on the liquid, hydroxyl radicals and superoxide ions are released into the air thereby destroying any microbes such as bacteria, viruses and mold that may be present.

To prove that the liquid is harmless to humans, four categories of safety tests were performed on rats, guinea pigs and rabbits (please be warned that the next paragraph may be offensive to you and you may want to skip to the next paragraph).

They are:

(1) Acute oral toxicity test – the liquid was fed orally to rats;

(2) Primary skin irritation test – the liquid was applied to the deliberately scratched skin of rabbits;

(3) Skin sensitivity test – the liquid is injected under the skin of guinea pigs;

(4) Test for mutagenicity – the liquid was applied to salmonella bacteria to determine if they caused mutation in the bacteria’s nuclei in order to ascertain whether the liquid has the ability to cause cancer.

Unharmed animals

Pretty grim and disgusting stuff! I feel this way even though reports indicate that the tests were conducted in accordance with the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Chemical Testing. I can begin to sympathize with the animal welfare camp for such safety testing. Fortunately, for this liquid product, all animals (even salmonella bacteria) were found unharmed by its application.

This brief overview of animal testing explains why manufacturers of ionic air purifiers refrain from publishing or even mentioning such tests when they are conducted.

Security Footnotes

Despite this concern of manufacturers, my Internet searches have revealed footnotes for certain brands indicating that safety tests have been performed on the active agents. Looking for my own ionic air purifier, I would look for notes like this. I would expect that no animals were harmed or the scavenger would have no good reason to market to human beings. I would also make sure that the safety testing is carried out by reputable institutions that are accredited with GLP (Good Laboratory Practice), a set of principles issued by the OECD to recognize organizations that comply with strict standards of scientific testing.

Human Testing

In the final analysis, does this mean that there really is no safety test for the effects of active agents on human beings using ionic air purifiers? Hardly if you think about it. All users become testers, having unknowingly volunteered by the act of purchasing and using it!

Unfortunately, all we would hear on the manufacturer’s websites would be glowing testimonials of the cleanser’s benefits. Such evidence, while useful, comes under the cloud of cherry-picking, ie. only positive ones are presented. To be considered strong scientific evidence that the active agents do not cause harm to human tissue, the operation of the ionic air purifier by users would have to be subjected to the very strict criteria and testing parameters of a GLP laboratory.

It seems that this is an issue that will never be properly resolved. The only comfort for me is that many other products in the consumer market are sold in the same way, simply on the good faith of the manufacturers and are considered safe until proven otherwise.

Security – The second aspect

In a future article, I will discuss the second aspect of security. In addition to the active agents, human tissue can also be damaged by potential byproducts, intentional or unintentional, of ionic air purifiers.

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