MadSci Network: General Biology

Re: Why is it that negatively ionized air is good for health but positive isnt?

Date: Wed Sep 26 15:49:09 2001
Posted By: Bernadette Baca, Health Physicist, Division of Reactor Safety
Area of science: General Biology
ID: 998568430.Gb

There is still much debate in the scientific and medical field on whether 
or not negative ions are "good" for ones health. Studies involving the 
different health effects of both negative and positive ions are on-going 
with varied results.  However, when looking at the basic interactions of 
negative and positive ions, the ions do affect cells and other molecules in 
different ways.

First let us look at what "ions" are.  Ions are molecules or atoms that are 
either missing or have extra electrons associated with them.  Those that 
have extra electrons are the wonderful negative ions (negatively charged), 
and those missing electrons are positive ions (positively charged).  
Through basic chemistry and physics, all elements want to be neutral; 
therefore, the positive ions want to fill the holes where electrons should 
be and negative ions want to shed their extra electrons.  The whole process 
and existence for ions is to become neutral - by either losing or gaining 

Now comes in how these ions interact with other things in order to exchange 
electrons. Negative ions attract or are attracted to positively charge 
things in order to donate the excess of electrons; while positive ions are 
attracted to negatively charged things in order to accept its electron 
excess.  A very visible transfer of electrons from one charged body to 
another is lightening.  Lightening is the result of electrons from 
negatively charge ions in the clouds "jumping" to a positively charged 
object on or near the ground.  In addition, the flow of the massive number 
of electrons "jumping" to the ground strip away other molecules' or atoms' 
electrons creating positive ions.  This "jumping" of electrons from one 
charged body to another creates a current; essentially electricity.  
However, when the receiving end is the human body, it is not a pleasant 

Current studies support the claim that negative ions aid in particle 
removal from the air.  The negative ions attract many smaller particles in 
efforts to donate electrons.  As the ions attract small particles (dust, 
pollen, pollution, viruses, bacteria, etc), the ions get heavier and 
heavier.  Then finally the ions get so heavy they simply fall out of the 
air or become large enough to be collected on filters.  Negative ions have 
also been credited for increasing the degradation rate of serotonin the 
body.  The degradation of serotonin causes a sense of well-being.  These 
are just two examples claiming negative ions are a benefit human health.  

On the other hand, positive ions may be considered a nuisance to the human 
body in that they want to attract electrons anyway they can.  When 
interacting with the human body, the body does not necessarily want these 
loose electrons.  Thus the positive ions become an irritant to the body and 
in some cases inhibit or interfere with biological functions.  Some studies have 
concluded that people can become irritable when exposed to an excess of 
positive ions - because your body sees them as an irritant.  And this may 
be the primary reason to explain why negative ions are perceived "better" 
for one health than positive ions.

There are additional studies looking at the interactions and other health 
effects/benefits of negative ions.  I was able to locate a few websites 
that may have additional information about the different effects and 
benefits of negative and positive ions.  They are listed in no particular 
order.  Some are commercial sites and I am not recommending their products 
but referring to their supporting information on how negative ions work.

Hope this will answer your question.

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