Negative ions are a naturally occurring part of the environment. These charged air particles are always moving around us, and are particularly concentrated during summer months. Accredited professors and doctors are just beginning to understand the health benefits that these kinds of air particles have. While the ions themselves had no known negative health affects as of 2011, health risks can come from a lack of positive ions, from the machines that claim to produce negative ions and from overestimating the benefits of these particles of air.
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. This makes them negatively charged. The process of turning normal air molecules into negative ions is called ionization, and it occurs naturally when air is under the influence of energy sources such as sunshine, lightning or even waterfalls. But air molecules also have the ability to lose an electron, which turns them into positively charged ions. These can also be beneficial.
One health risk of focusing too much on negative ions is that certain consumers may not get enough positive ions, which also have health benefits. In particular, positive ions have an oxidizing effect that helps the body fight certain viruses and other illnesses. Even major proponents of the health effects of negative ions agree that people need to intake a balance of both kinds of ions for optimum health benefits.
A more serious health risk that might be aggravated by the hunt for more negative ions is the potential ozone the body could absorb from certain machines dedicated to producing negative ions. According to the Japan Times, research scientist Yuko Amo noted that negative-ion machines often use an electric-discharge method of producing these negative ions. However, these machines often also give off ozone, a harmful and highly toxic gas. Thus, consumers should be wary when looking to purchase a negative-ion generating machine.
Another potential health risk of negative ions is that proponents may overestimate the health benefits of these molecules. Given the large number of ionization products and the many claims made about these products, consumers can be led to believe that getting negative ions will help do anything from eliminating depression to fighting cancer. Though negative ions may help the body with seasonal depression and may allow for better body functioning, many of these claims are unfounded and not backed up by scientific evidence. For many conditions, it may not hurt to use negative-ion therapy, but it is still imperative to talk to a doctor and to explore accredited methods of treatment.
References and ResourcesColumbia University: Phsychiatry: Ask the Experts: Negative Air Ionization; Michael Terman
Japan Times: Something in the air: the charged debate over negative ions; MaSami Ito