Understanding Electrical Ions
by Building Inspector and Indoor Air Specialist, Dan Schilling
© Copyright 2001 Residential Inspections LLC, All Rights Reserved
What are electrical ions?
Ions are an invisible form of electrical energy in the air. Through the sun, vegetation, waterfalls, ocean waves, and lightning, ions are made continuously and are in abundant supply outdoors. As an example, if you were to remove the powder from a medication capsule, the amount of air inside would be approximately one cubic centimeter. In this tiny amount of air, nature will make approximately 4,000 negatively charged ions and 3,000 positive. Research has shown that exposure to ions has health benefits for our bio-electric human bodies. This is why people feel so much better after a rainfall, or when near a waterfall, or when walking along the ocean or in the woods. Most important however, ions perform an absolutely essential function in cleaning our air of particulate matter.
How do ions work?
It would probably help to think of electrical ions as little magnets that float through the air and attract invisible dust particles also found in the air. Just as a magnet can pick up many metal paper clips in one lump, ions can bond many dust particles together. When this process occurs, the newly formed, larger particles become too heavy to stay floating in the air, so they fall to the ground and become dirt. Put another way, if nature did not make ions for us, our air outdoors would be so thick with particles that every living thing on earth would have been choked to death a long time ago. It is largely because of ions that our outdoor air becomes non-irritating, crisper and easier to inhale. In fact, if we all lived outdoors, the epidemic levels of indoor air illnesses would likely be nonexistent. However, we spend approximately 90% of our time indoors where we do not have the benefits of direct sunshine, planetary vegetation, or bolts of lightning, and thus virtually no ions to clean particles from our indoor air.
Why should I replace ions in my indoor air?
Most of the particles in outdoor air are rendered harmless due to the synergism of ions and their sister air cleaning ingredient ozone. Indoors the situation is much different. We seal these natural air purifying ingredients out of our homes with deadly precision. Now add to this, the creation of massive amounts of indoor particles. Just since you started reading this, your body has created tens of thousands of particles. These are particles of dead skin being sloughed off of your body. Each person in your home or workplace will create about 40,000 particles each and every minute. We shed billions of these particles everyday and there is no way around it. In fact, human dander generates 80% of the dust you see in your home. The other 20% can consist of pollen, mold spores, pet dander, insect parts, microscopic urine and fecal particles from pet accidents, dust mites, dust mite excrement, etc. This all sounds bad enough, but it becomes worse when we realize that even more contaminants attach themselves to these particles for a free ride in your air. Contaminants such as radon gas, bacteria, and viruses have no other means of locomotion other than on the floating dust particles inside your home. This is why people get sick so easily indoors. You don't catch a cold from fresh outdoor air; you catch a cold from inhaling dust particles with someone else's viruses attached to them. Essentially, without an ionizer, the wet linings of your respiratory system are the primary method of particle removal from the air. Obviously, this is also causes sickness and disease. With an ionizing air purifier, the smallest of airborne particles become enlarged through ionic aggregation. This allows the particles to be filtered from the breathable air due to their increased size, or settled out of the breathable air by gravitation, due to their increased weight.
How do I replace ions indoors?
There are a variety of air purification and filtering systems available that can replace electrical ions in your indoor air. The most common ionizers, including HEPA filters with built-in ionizers are limited to ionizing only one room. If you want balanced ionic coverage throughout your home (and you should), you would need to purchase a separate ionizer for every room of your home. Further, these types of ionizers have the potential of causing a phenomenon called “Black Wall Syndrome”, whereby the particles are bonded to walls, causing a discoloration which cannot be washed off. There are now improved ionizing technologies which provide a balanced coverage of ions with only one unit required for an average sized home, and they have the added benefit of producing ions in the same positive/negative ratio as outdoor air. If you or those you care about suffer from any indoor air symptoms or illnesses, you should replace the ions to your indoor air. It is highly recommended to take all measures possible to clean your indoor air, and without delay; the longer the exposure to indoor air pollution, the greater the health risks.
(See the articles on ozone and air purification systems.)
with those you care about.