Are ionizers safe for cats?
There is a questionmark over whether ionizers are safe for cats. Ionic air purifiers produce negative ions. The negatively charged ions attract positively charged particles such as dust and other allergens which cleans the air because the combined particle is more easily trapped by the air purifier’s filters and they also fall to the floor where they can be hoovered. Ionic air purifiers also claim to be effective against viruses and they can reduce pet odours because it is said that they attack the odours at source. It is also claimed that they clean the air more effectively than a HEPA filter. It seems that you can buy free standing ionizers and air purifiers that have a combined function: HEPA filter plus ionizer.
However, most ionising air cleaners produce ozone, a byproduct which is considered to be a harmful pollutant and known lung irritant. For people, quite low levels of ozone can cause health problems particularly in those with respiratory diseases such as asthma. Children and elderly people are more sensitive to increased levels of ozone, apparently.
Ozone is a powerful oxidant. It can affect tissues in the respiratory tract and lungs. It appears that ozone which is at the lower end of concentrations which can affect the functioning of the lungs is often found in Europe. Once exposure ceases lung function returns to normal. Ozone can also inflame the lungs.
No doubt the studies on how ozone affects health concern people particularly those with respiratory diseases as mentioned. Therefore we have to speculate how it affects cats. It makes sense to presume that ozone in the home may affect a cat’s health under certain circumstances as their anatomy is very similar to that of humans. Ozone presents a potential health problem which is perhaps the best way to phrase it. Therefore, it is probably better to buy a air purifier based upon a HEPA filter only and one that does not produce negatively charged ions – an ionic air purifier.
Interestingly, ozone is used as a therapy in veterinary practices because it can deliver more oxygen than pure oxygen. It can treat viruses, bacteria and fungal infections and also inflammed and damaged tissue. This information does not square up with ozone being a health problem. I suspect that the conflict is to do with how it is delivered and to whom it is delivered.
Worldwide sales of air purifiers are increasing because of an increased awareness of the quality of the air that we breathe. The news is full of information about how pollutants in the air affect the health of city dwellers particularly schoolchildren. And the coronavirus pandemic has also heightened people’s awareness of air pollutants. As a consequence the potential health issues relating to ionic air purifiers are more relevant today than before.