Bipolar Ionization

Product Overview

Bipolar ionizers have been around for decades. They have become more popular recently.  This product generates ions by introducing a high voltage field in an air stream. These Ions have a general life from 30 to 300 seconds. An ion is a molecule or atom that is positively or negatively charged, meaning that it has electrons to give or needs electrons to become uncharged, thus becoming stable. These ions are introduced into inhabited spaces through the HVAC system or by self-contained units. Ions seek out other molecules in the air and attach to them. According to one manufacturer they “attach to particles, pathogens and gas molecules. The ions help to agglomerate fine submicron particles, making them filterable. The ions kill pathogens by robbing them of life-sustaining hydrogen. The ions breakdown harmful VOCs with an electro

Bipolar Ionization Air Purifying Product

Is Bipolar Ionization Effective?

Efficiency claims vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer. One manufacturer. Global Plasma Solutions claims their product will increase the MERV Rating efficiency by 5 levels. This claim may very well be true as larger particles will more easily be filtered from the air stream. It is generally agreed on that bipolar ionization is NOT a stand-alone filtration system. It may help improve indoor air quality but needs to be incorporated with other proven filtration systems.

ASHRAE on Bipolar Ionization

Bipolar Ionization/Corona Discharge/ Needlepoint Ionization and Other Ion or Reactive Oxygen Air Cleaners

• Air cleaners using reactive ions and/or reactive oxygen species (ROS) have become prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic. New devices that are not mentioned elsewhere in this guidance likely fall into this category.

• High voltage electrodes create reactive ions in air that react with airborne contaminants, including viruses. The design of the systems can be modified to create mixtures of reactive oxygen species (ROS), ozone, hydroxyl radicals and superoxide anions.

• Systems are reported to range from ineffective to very effective in reducing airborne particulates and acute health symptoms.

• Convincing scientifically-rigorous, peer-reviewed studies do not currently exist on this emerging technology; manufacturer data should be carefully considered.

• Systems may emit ozone, some at high levels. Manufacturers are likely to have ozone generation test data.

This information was taken directly from the ashrae-filtration_disinfection-c-19-guidance.pdf

CDC on Bipolar Ionization

“The CDC does not provide recommendations for, or against, any manufacturer or manufacturer’s product. While bi-polar ionization has been around for decades, the technology has matured and many of the earlier potential safety concerns are reportedly now resolved. If you are considering the acquisition of bi-polar ionization equipment, you will want to be sure that the equipment meets UL 2998 standard certification (Environmental Claim Validation Procedure (ECVP) for Zero Ozone Emissions from Air Cleaners) which is intended to validate that no harmful levels of ozone are produced. Relative to many other air cleaning or disinfection technologies, needlepoint bi-polar ionization has a less-documented track record in regards to cleaning/disinfecting large and fast volumes of moving air within heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This is not to imply that the technology doesn’t work as advertised, only that in the absence of an established body of evidence reflecting proven efficacy under as-used conditions, the technology is still considered by many to be an “emerging technology”. As with all emerging technologies, consumers are encouraged to exercise caution and to do their homework. Consumers should research the technology, attempting to match any specific claims against the consumer’s intended use. Consumers should request efficacy performance data that quantitively demonstrates a clear protective benefit under conditions consistent with those for which the consumer is intending to apply the technology. Preferably, the documented performance data under as-used conditions should be available from multiple sources, some of which should be independent, third party sources.”

Taken directly from https://www.ashrae.org/technical-resources/filtration-disinfection

New Studies Raise Concern.

In a recent study, published in March 2021, by Illinois Tech, Colorado State, and Portland State the safety and efficiency of bipolar ionization has come into question. The research found that cleaning up one harmful air pollutant could create a number of other other dangerous gasses.

Volatile Organic Compounds

Tests in the field showed that the ionizing devices did decrease some VOCs like Xylene. However, they led to an increase in others compounds namely acetone, ethanol and toluene. Exposure to these types of chemicals is known to cause a myriad of maladies in humans and animals. Some are known or believed to cause cancer. 

Fine Particle Concentrations

The researchers examined the effects of indoor air quality in an occupied office building. Air samples were lab tested for particulate matter and VOCs. The technology being examined was a commercially available in-duct bipolar ionization device. The team found that while despite a change in particle concentrations there was almost no effect on PM2.5 particles. PM2.5 particles are believed to be the most dangerous of indoor air pollutants. 

Health Impact of Ionization

We don’t know exactly how air ionizers impact the health of those exposed to it. The results of tests have been mixed. One study of children age 11-14 showed that while there was a benefit to lung capacity; it was offset by a detriment to the children’s heart health. The net result was ionization produced no net gain.

LakeAir and Bipolar Ionization

Many visitors to our website have asked for our opinion on this emerging technology. The answers given in our chat line and on the phone have been consistent with the views expressed in this article. We have modified over 100 LakeAir air purifiers to accept this technology. However, because bipolar ionization is not universally accepted by either ASHRAE or the CDC, we do not sell this technology in our air purification systems.  LakeAir studies all emerging technologies and will add them to our product line when there is clear evidence they are both safe and effective. The team at LakeAir suggests that consumers do their homework. Be cautious about all emerging technologies. We echo the thought of the author of another piece of work on this topic and stick with proven methods of air purification like a HEPA Filtration unit.

Resources:

Global Plasma Solution Brochure

ashrae-filtration_disinfection-c-19-guidance.pdf

https://www.iit.edu/news/Joint-university-research-finds-some-air-purifiers-may-actually-increase-harmful-airborne-chemicals

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality#Health_Effects

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2021-03/csu-sus031621.php

https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution/particulate-matter-pm-basics

https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31473392/