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Consumer Reports: Air Cleaners Emit Ozone

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Dr. Kim Mulvihill reportingIn hopes of cleaning the air at home, many of peole are spending lots of money on air purifiers. But now one group has raised a health concern.

The information is in the May edition of Consumer Reports. The magazine tested several air cleaners, and gives a failing grade to most.

Consumer Reports tested six electrostatic precipitators or ionizing cleaners, and one hepa device. Unlike hepa filters, which simply push air through a filter, ionizers create an electrostatic charge so when air goes through the system, particles are pulled up to the elctric plate.

The magazine tested how well these devices removed smoke, dust and pollen from the air.

Jeff Asher/Tech. Director, Consumer Reports: "We found all the pollutants we tested. They were very ineffective in removing those from the air."

The study also tested for ozone-- a super charged oxygen molecule-- and found all emitted the irritant as a byproduct.

Jeff Asher: "This is not an imminent threat to health. But nonetheless it's one where you say why buy these ionizers when in fact they don't clean the air and they produce this byproduct called ozone."

Richard Thalheimer/ Sharper Image CEO & Founder: "We unequivocally have said it's safe and effective and it's well within EPA guidelines for safe low emission trace amounts of ozone."

One of the models tested is Ionic Breeze-- made by San Francisco based Sharper Image.

Richard Thalheimer: "Before we thow out all electrical appliances in our home, whether it's a mixer, printer, computer or a fan, you want to realize every electronic product puts out tiny amounts of trace ozone."

The voluntary standard for ozone emissions is 50 parts per billion. Ionic Breeze, along with four other cleaners, test below that. However, Consumer Reports says it all can add up.

"We were concerned they still contributed to a significant increase to the background in the outdoor air coming in and it could in fact for some people produce problems."

But this customer who has allergies swears by them.

James Morgen, Central Valley Resident: "They work. They work. Don't believe everything you read."

Sharper Image says studies prove how well the device cleans the air. However, UCSF allergy and asthma expert Dr. Homer Boushey says while it sounds good, where's the scientific proof it helps patients?

Homer Boushey/ MD/UCSF Allergy and Asthma Expert: "I'd really like to see some data on clinical benefit before I'm ready to endorse this or recommend it to my patients."

Consumer Reports only gave a nod to two models: The Friedrich Ionizer and the Whirlpool Hepa Device.

But there are less expensive ways to clean the air at home- remember your carpet is one of the worst offenders, vacuum regularly. Use a mattress cover to control house dust mites. And, don't smoke indoors, or use incense, candles or wood burning fires.

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