Sunday, August 13, 2006

Charging your air...does it work?

I have a history of asthma. Have I ever mention that in this blog? Well, its been a while since I last had an attack, but somehow I strongly doubt it if I have seen my last dose of salbutamol. I average about one mild attack a year. It's been more than a year since my last one, and hopefully I haven't jinxed myself by saying that.

When I was a kid I had quite frequent attacks, which were treated with injections in the ass back then. As I grew older, the frequency of attacks became less and less, but it doesn't seem as if I completely outgrew it. With air pollution the way it is nowadays, I doubt it if I ever will.

As an asthmatic, I have always been somewhat picky with the air I breathe. I've had a thing for air conditioning since I was a child, whether in buildings or vehicles, which gave some people the impression that I was well-to-do and wasn't used to being in hot places. Actually it had nothing to do with being well-to-do. Cool, dry air is always easier to breathe than air that is warm or humid. Just ask any asthmatic.

I also have a aversion of sorts to crowded places. Just ask my son. Its been a while since we last had a meal at Jollibee, despite the fact that he asks me now and then if we could eat there. Whenever I see long lines and crowds, I tend to shy away. Not that I mind crowds, I just don't like being with several people, especially in poorly ventilated areas. There's something about inhaling all that exhaled carbon dioxide that makes breathing such a chore. As a result I tend to gravitate to places where there aren't that much people. Its not just about breathing though. There's something to be said about being in places that you can actually hear yourself think.

So what does that all have to do with charging your air?

Photobucket - Video and Image HostingWell, being picky with the air I breathe, on a whim, and perhaps out of curiosity, I ended up purchasing a couple of air ionizers while browsing through a home applicance store a few months ago. They were small units, just about right for ionizing the air in a small to medium sized room. They are far cries from the large, filtered units that I see in some of the offices in the place I work, and far less expensive as well. I have always wanted to try one out in my house, never could find a model I could afford though. Now I did, and so I bit.

What's the big deal about air ionizers anyway? Well, the theory goes something like this: An ion is a charged particle. Air molecules are either positively charged, negatively charged, or neutral. Positively charged molecules are have a deficit of electrons, making them positive. Negatively charged molecules have a surplus of electrons, making them negative. Neutrally charged molecules have a balance of protons and electrons. Molecules always want to be neutral, so the charged molecules are looking to either gain or lose electrons. Positively charged molecules are always looking for free electrons to combine with, while negatively charged molecules are always trying to unload their excess electrons.

In short, a positively charged air molecule needs energy to become neutral. A negatively charged particle needs to lose energy to become neutral. So if you look at it in terms of giving and taking energy, you'll have an idea of sorts of why it is supposed to be beneficial if the air you breathe is negatively charged. Air ionizers capitalize on this theory by supposedly releasing negative ions indoors.

These negative ions are supposedly more prevalent in areas that you would actually prefer to be. These areas include places like beaches, waterfalls, and mountain areas. According to some published materials, it is these negative ions that make fresh air, well, "fresh". Positive ions, on the other hand are usually more prevalent in polluted urban areas, particularly office buildings with recirculating air conditioning. It turns out that stale air is "stale" because it has been recycled, so to speak, stripping it of electrons in the process, giving it a positive charge.

The best example most anyone can relate to is the stuffy air with a weird smell that's close to the ground just before a thunderstorm. Supposedly it's chock full of positive ions. That's probably how some animals (and some people for that matter) can sense an incoming storm. The light, sweet smelling air after a downpour on the other hand, is full of negative ions. Water molecules going through air creates negative ions. Lightning and solar radiation also have a similar effect, giving air molecules a negative charge.

There are a lot of anecdotal reports and studies suggesting the negatively charged air can be beneficial to ones health. Here are a few ones that I found:

Elevated negative air ion levels are widely reported to have beneficial effects on humans including enhanced feeling of relaxation, and reduced tiredness, stress levels, irritability, depression, and tenseness.

Generally speaking, negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.

In experiments that may prove important in cancer research. Drs. Krueger and Smith also discovered that cigarette smoke slows down the cilia and impairs their ability to clear foreign, and possibly carcinogenic (cancer-inducing), substances from the lungs. Positive ions, administered along with cigarette smoke, lowered the ciliary beat as before, but from three to ten time faster than in normal air. Negative ions however, counteracted the effects of the smoke.

x x x They found that 18 of 24 asthmatics; 13 of 17 bronchitis sufferers; 11 of 12 hay fever victims; and 6 of 10 people afflicted with nasal catarrh reported that negative ion generators had noticeably improved their condition. A few claimed the generator had cured them.


And that's only the tip of the iceberg. There are tons of references out there on the internet, extolling the benefits of negatively charge air.

Is ionized air true alternative medicine? Does it really work?

Well, it has its believers, and why wouldn't it, when a lot of studies point in that direction. As a means of purifying the air though, it falls somewhat short of all the hype. Used in this manner, it only performs marginally. While it does rid the air of floating pollutants and dust particles, these particles have to end up somewhere, and they usually settle into your floors, walls, or various surfaces.

Well, it's been a couple of months since I bought mine. So what have I observed? As far as ionized air having positive effects on my health, I'm not really sure about that. I mean, I feel no different. But then again, I was never that unhealthy to begin with, so I can't really say. Subjectively though, the air in the rooms I've placed ionizers in feels "lighter" and significantly less "stuffy". Unfortunately, I can't be any more specific than that. As for ridding the air of dust, they seems to work somewhat. Since the ionizers I bought aren't really that big or powerful, they don't seem to be strong enough to actually force the dust to stick to my walls. Dust tends to gather more than usual on the floor in immediate vicinity of the ionizer, so it must be working.

I don't know. The jury's still out on this one. It seems to work for me though, but not in any way I can perceptibly or substantially prove or measure.

There may just be something to this new age alternative medicine mumbo jumbo after all. Then again, maybe there's none.

While I may not go as far as recommend that you get an ionizer for your own home, if you're suffering from respiratory ailments and nothing seems to bring relief, it may not hurt to try this out.





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