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Ionizing air cleaners get zapped

Popular and expensive ionizing air cleaners – a staple of late-night infomercials – could expose users to lung-damaging levels of ozone, and they do a poor job of actually cleaning the air, according to a study in the May issue of Consumer Reports.

The magazine tested six popular ionizing cleaners and one HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter. It found that two of the ionizing cleaners emit 150 to 300 parts per billion of ozone in samples taken 2 inches from the machine, while three other ionizing cleaners are in the 26-to-48-ppb range.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for outdoor ozone concentration exposure is 80 parts per billion over eight hours.

“Anyone who has respiratory problems might think, ‘The closer I get this thing to my head while I’m sleeping, the better.’ Those people will be exposed to relatively high levels of ozone, which is not a good thing,” says Mark Connelly, the magazine’s director of testing.

“In normal people, exposure to ozone levels of 100 parts per billion causes injuries to the airways,” says Dean Sheppard, director of the Lung Biology Researcher Center at the University of California-San Francisco. “It also produces an effect in the airways of normal people that’s like what you see in people with asthma: shortness of breath and wheezing.”

Studies by researchers at UCSF and Yale University also have shown that even small increases in ozone are associated with reduced lung function and increased mortality rates.