Do Air Ionizers and Ozone Generators Stop Coronavirus?
Since the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, some people have asked whether air ionizers or ozone generators could have a role in preventing virus infection.
It’s very important, first and foremost, to follow the advice of the CDC and other medical authorities on prevention, such as regular hand washing, covering coughs and sneezes and avoiding contact with people suffering from COVID-19.
The actions and effects of both negative ions on airborne viruses, and ozone (O3) on viral contamination, have been well established in previous scientific studies though.
This article covers these actions and effects and how they may be beneficial in reducing your exposure to viruses in certain situations.
How Air Ionizers Stop Airborne Viruses
Viruses, like influenza and coronavirus, can spread as aerosols on floating particles and microscopic water droplets. After an infected person coughs or sneezes they can remain suspended in the air for long periods, according to scientists.
An air ionizer machine generates negatively charged ions, also known as anions, that are electrostatically attracted to positively charged airborne particles and aerosol droplets and attaches to them in large numbers.
In high enough concentrations, these ions cause floating germs to become too heavy and fall out of the air you breathe and onto the ground or nearest surface.
This scientific study found a negative ionizer offered “effective prevention of airborne transmitted influenza A virus infection” and “enables unique possibilities for rapid and simple removal of virus from air”.
NHS Hospitals in the UK have also used ionization technology to dramatically reduce both bacterial and viral infections inside hospital wards.
Importantly, health experts say this ionic air purifying effect would be unlikely to protect you against coronavirus if an infected person sneezed or coughed directly on you.
Where it could be useful is against floating viruses in the air on public transport, at train stations or airports, or especially within a confined space like a plane cabin.
Workplace and Travel Air Ionizers
Demand for wearable air ionizers, like one of these few remaining good ones in stock, has increased dramatically in 2020.
So much so that I had to add an update to this article on personal air purifiers, with new recommendations since the previous ones had all been sold out.
Another place where air ionization technology could be protective is in open plan workplaces when many people sit in close proximity.
Previous large scale research has shown installing negative ion generators at company offices reduced overall sick days from cold and flu viruses.
While you are unlikely to convince your boss to pay for this, you can get your own plug-in ionizer air purifier for your personal breathing space at work.
The best one of these is this new 2020 USB powered design, generating 20 million negative ions per second and portable to work anywhere unplugged for at least 14 hours.
Ozone Generators for Viruses
While air ionizers may be useful against airborne viruses, they are not considered effective against viral contamination on surfaces, like door handles or smart phones.
It’s too early for conclusive scientific studies specifically on the new coronavirus, however ozone is well known to quickly destroy germs like cold and flu viruses, harmful bacteria, molds and other pathogens.
Unfortunately, it is also a reactive gas that should not be breathed in for too long, especially by those with respiratory conditions.
Keeping in mind that you have to leave the room, plug in ozone generators, like this recommended model with a timer, could be used to disinfect an enclosed area of potential viral contamination, both in the air and on affected surfaces.
Ozone as a Viral Decontaminating Agent
O3 gas was previously proven to kill SARS (SARS-CoV-1), also a coronavirus with very similar structure to the new 2019-nCoV virus. In fact, scientists are now officially calling it SARS-CoV-2 so there is a clearly close structural similarity.
This study detailed the “known anti-viral properties of ozone” to destroy 11 different viruses, including another strain of coronavirus, as well as rhinovirus, influenza and common cold viruses. The authors concluded “No ozone-resistant viruses have been found”.
Hospitals in China’s Wuhan province have reportedly been testing the use of ozone against coronavirus. There is also an ongoing study at the Institute of Virology in Hubei in China, due to be published in the medical journal Virology, on ozone and 2019-nCoV.
Some medical experts, like Zhou Muzhi, professor at Tokyo Keizai University, have stated publicly that ozone could be a powerful weapon to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
Do Air Purifiers Work against Airborne Viruses?
Certain specialized air purification machines, like this highly rated model with patented Photo Electrochemical Oxidation technology to destroy viruses, are specifically designed for capturing and destroying germs and other pathogens.
They often use technologies like UV-C light, silver antiviral layers, thermodynamic sterilizing systems and HyperHEPA filters for ultrafine particles right down to 0.003 microns.
However, most regular air purifiers use HEPA filters which are effective down to 0.3 microns. Unfortunately, viruses can be as small as 0.1 microns, so even if drawn into an air filter they may pass through again.
Health experts in newspaper articles have warned against relying on air filtration machines for coronavirus as they may be ineffective.
The specific effects of both ozone and negative ions make them much better candidates for eliminating airborne viruses.
Once again though, following CDC medical advice to wash your hands regularly, avoid touching your face and keeping away from people who might be infected is the best defense against 2019-nCoV.
Air ionizers and ozone generators may only have a supporting role in certain situations, like when traveling on public transport, flying on an airplane or disinfecting a room from viral contamination.
I hope this article has provided helpful information on an important topic. There’s more on wearable personal air purifiers here, as well as the best plug-in ionizers and ozone machines, along with high-powered negative ion generators for your home.
I’ve also recently written about using humidifiers and vaporizers to stop indoor viral transmission here.