The Health Risks of Negative Ions

Negative ions are a naturally occurring air particles in the environment; they're always moving around us and are particularly concentrated during summer. Researchers are just beginning to understand their health benefits. (Ever heard of earthing?) But are there any risks to taking in negative ions?

Negative vs. Positive Ions

Though doctors and scientists cannot say with certainty what exactly negative ions do for humans and animals, many experts agree that at the very least, negative ions can help increase energy and improve mood. The particles themselves are just regular air molecules of either carbon dioxide, oxygen, nitrogen or even water that have gained an extra electron through a process called ionization, making them negatively charged. Ionization occurs naturally when air is exposed to energy sources such as sunshine, lightning or waterfalls.

Air molecules also have the ability to lose an electron, which turns them into positively charged ions. Major proponents of the health benefits of negative ions agree that people need a balance of both.

Overestimating the Benefits

A potential health risk of negative ions is that proponents may overestimate their health benefits. Given the large number of ionization products and the many claims made about them, consumers can be led to believe that getting negative ions will heal anything and everything—from eliminating depression to fighting cancer. Negative ions may help people cope with seasonal depression and help the body function better, but many of these claims are unfounded and not backed by scientific evidence. For many conditions, negative-ion therapy may not hurt, but it's still imperative to talk to a doctor and explore accredited methods of treatment.


Negative-ion machines that use an electric-discharge method of producing negative ions often also give off ozone, a harmful and highly toxic gas.