Some people who are considering purchasing an air purifier for their homes may have heard about Ionic Breeze, which for a time was a very big name in the world of home air purifiers. This article will examine what the Ionic Breeze was and what happened to it.
Ionic Breeze was a product of The Sharper Image, a brand specializing in high-tech products which at its peak operated over 180 stores in the United States, alongside an extensive online presence. The Ionic Breeze was a portable purifier that made use of an air ionizer. Air ionizers work by giving air molecules an electric charge, which makes them attach to particles in the air. Theoretically, the intention is that this will help collect unwanted particles in the purifier's filter by making them "stick" in its collection blades. Possibly because this process seemed more high-tech or cutting-edge than traditional air filters, Ionic Breeze was a popular filter for a time, and sold more than two million units.
Unfortunately, the hype surrounding Ionic Breeze failed to live up to the facts, and this proved to be not only a frustrating experience for those who purchased one, but also the downfall of its maker, The Sharper Image.
The controversy began in the year 2003, when Consumer Reports, a magazine dedicated to testing and evaluating consumer products, released a report on air filters that cast serious doubts on Ionic Breeze's claims to purify the air. The report found that ionic air filters such as the Ionic Breeze have a low Clean Air Delivery Rate when compared to traditional HEPA filters. HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters trap airborne particles in a fiber mat, and have been in use for many decades.
Not surprisingly, The Sharper Image was angered by the Consumer Reports article. They sued the magazine's publisher, Consumer's Union, claiming that the methods used for testing in the article did not give an accurate picture of the Ionic Breeze's effectiveness. The lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, however, and The Sharper Image was forced to pay over half a million dollars to cover the legal fees of Consumer's Union.
This was not the end of the negative publicity for the Ionic Breeze. Consumer Reports issued a second article in 2005 that was even more damaging than the first. Not only did the Ionic Breeze (as well as other ionic air purifiers) fail to significantly improve indoor air quality, it also released trace amounts of ozone into the air. Although The Sharper Image attempted to deny the report's accuracy, it was generally accepted, and sales never recovered.
The magazine later also issued a report denying the value of the "seals of approval" given to filters such as the ionic breeze. And when The Sharper Image announced a new "OzoneGuard" attachment to reduce the amount of ozone released by the its signature air filter, Consumer Reports panned the device as ineffective.
A class-action lawsuit soon arose against The Sharper Image in response to these revelations. By 2008, the company went bankrupt, and it closed down all its stores by the end of that year. The company's name is now used as a product brand that is sold via an online store and through various home-and-office style retailers.
Most people, even if they do not know what ozone is, have heard of it, usually in context of the ozone layer in the atmosphere that protects the earth from ultraviolet light. However, ozone is not so benevolent a substance when we come into close contact with it. As the Environmental Protection Agency says: "Good Up High, Bad Nearby."
Ozone is a molecule consisting of three oxygen atoms, rather than the two that comprise a "normal" oxygen molecule. The third atom can relatively easily become detached from the other two, and once free, it will interact with other substances. One of these "other substances" is your body. Even small amounts of ozone, according to the EPA, "can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation," as well as even worse effects. Those with asthma may find their conditioned worsened by exposure to ozone, and ozone also reduces the body's ability to combat respiratory infections.
In other words, those who purchase ozone-generating air purifiers to improve their indoor air quality may discover that the "solution" is worse than the problem. For instance, one Ionic Breeze owner interviewed by Consumer Reports claimed to have experienced a "dramatic reduction" in her asthma symptoms a mere two days after she turned off the device.
Although the Ionic Breeze initially had great appeal, eventually its design flaws were exposed. The story of its rise and fall can serve as a lesson to those looking for air purifiers to be aware of what they are buying. Especially, they should stay away from any "purifier" that releases ozone into the air. Indoor air pollution is a big enough problem without adding another harmful toxin into the mix.