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Question 1147

Does a device that has radio waves and uses ozone and negative ions have the ability to clean the air in my home? — KTR, Halifax, Nova Scotia
There are many simple electronic devices that claim to clean the air in your home by making negative ions and ozone (if they involve any radio waves, it's a minor side effect of their internal electronics). The claim is accurate—they do make both ozone and negative ions, and they do clean the air in your home. However, that's not the whole story. First, ozone may have the "fresh" smell that occurs after a thunderstorm (a potent producer of ozone), but ozone is a powerful oxidizing agent and chemical irritant that's considered an environmental pollutant rather than a charming scent. The manufacturers are taking a nuisance effect and touting it as a "valuable feature." Second, the negative charges emitted by these electronic devices attach themselves to dust, ash, pollen, and smoke particles and cause those particles to bind themselves to your walls and furniture. The air really does become cleaner, but every surface in your home becomes dirtier as a result.

If you're seriously interested in cleaning the air in your home, you are probably better off with a full electrostatic air cleaner. Small home versions of this common industrial workhorse are easy to obtain at a local heating and air conditioning store. Properly designed machines use positive ions to avoid producing ozone and provide a negatively charged surface for the positively charged dirt to stick to so that it doesn't deposit itself on your walls.


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