What are Negative & Positive Ions & How are they Formed?
Ions are all around you right now and, whether you are aware of them or not, there is a good chance they are affecting the way you feel and quite possibly your health as well.
So, what is an ion? An ion is a molecule that has lost or gained an electron through various atmospheric forces or environmental influences.
There are both positive and negative ions but, as we shall see, the definitions of ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ are misleading in terms of their health effects.
What Are Positive Ions?
A simple definition of a positive ion is an electrically charged atom, or group of atoms, formed by the loss of one or more electrons. The number of protons does not change but the reduction in electrons gives the atom a positive charge.
Positive ions in the air are usually carbon dioxide molecules that have been stripped of an electron. Also known as positively charged ions or cations, they have been demonstrated to have a negative effect on your body when you are exposed to them in excess.
This is particularly the case with your lungs and respiratory tract, but your immune system can also be affected. This is because positive ions are so small, they are absorbed directly into your bloodstream from the air you breathe.
How is a Positive Ion Formed?
An excess of positively charged ions in your environment can contribute to tiredness and a lack of energy, tension, anxiety and irritability. Positive ions in the air have even been investigated as a contributing factor for asthma, allergies, migraines and depression.
In nature, positive ions are commonly formed by strong winds, dust, humidity and pollution and are at their highest levels just before an electrical storm.
This has been hypothesized as why so many people feel so uneasy before a storm and why respiratory problems are commonly reported at this time as well.
If you’ve ever spent a lot of time walking beside a busy road or inside a laundromat you will have experienced the tiring effects of a highly positively charged environment.
Unfortunately, our modern-day homes and workplaces have also become chronic generators of potentially harmful positive ions.
Office air-conditioning systems, fluorescent lights, cell phones and electrical and computer equipment are all potent positive ion generators, with printers and photocopiers being especially bad.
In your home, fluorescent lighting and electrical equipment such as televisions and microwave ovens are big outputs of positive ions, as are the fibers in carpets, curtains and upholstery.
Air conditioners, fan heaters, hair dryers and clothes dryers are a particularly strong sources of positively charged ions as well.
Worse still, as most homes are often well sealed from the air outside, there’s little chance for fresh air and its negative ions coming in with high enough levels to counteract this positive ion pollution.
Additionally, unless you live in the country, opening your window may not be that beneficial anyway. Large towns and city environments generally have far more positive ions and far fewer negative ions in the air when compared to country environments.
What Are Negative Ions?
The definition of a negative ion is an electrically charged atom, or cluster of atoms, formed by gaining one or more electrons. The number of protons in the atom does not change but the extra electrons gives it a negative charge.
Negatively charged ions, also known scientifically as anions, are the opposite of positive ions and they have directly the opposite effect on your health, mood and energy levels when you are exposed to them.
Negative ions in the air have a strong negative charge. Due to this nature, they are statically attracted to airborne particles like dust, mold spores, pet dander and other floating pollutants and potential allergens.
By attaching to these pollutants and allergens they give them a negative charge and, rather than drifting in the air, they are grounded and fall to the floor or nearest surface.
Even bacteria and viruses circling in the air of your home can be cleared by negatively charged ions attaching to them and removing them from the air you breathe.
How is a Negative Ion Formed?
In nature negative ions are found in abundance, particularly in forests, at the beach and most intensely near waterfalls, where the crashing water is a natural ion generator. This is a good part of the reason why you usually feel so great in these places and find it difficult to be tired or depressed.
The most powerful demonstration of the energizing and refreshing effects of negatively charged ions can be tasted in the air after a thunderstorm, which is saturated with beneficial anions. What if you could bring this kind of purified air into your home every day?
Using an air ionizer can help swing the balance of positive and negative ions in your home or office back towards a more health promoting ratio. Many people are surprised by just how good they feel with more negatively charged ions vs positively charged ions circulating in their living space.
Negative Ion Benefits for Your Health
Negative ions are oxygen atoms charged with an extra electron. They are created in nature by the effects of water, air, sunlight and the Earth’s inherent radiation.
Negatively charged ions, also called anions, are most prevalent in natural places and particularly around moving water or after a thunderstorm.
That taste in the air and feeling you get at the beach, near a waterfall or after a storm is your body being saturated in the benefits of negative ions.
What if there were a way to take that feeling you have with you and keep it going in your bedroom, lounge room, kitchen or office, as well as cleaning the air of pollution and floating contaminants?
What Do Negative Ions Do?
In high enough concentrations, anions purify the surrounding air of mold spores, pollen, pet dander, odors, cigarette smoke, bacteria, viruses, dust and other hazardous airborne particles.
They do this by attaching to these positively charged particles in large numbers. This causes the germs, mold, pollen and other allergens to become too heavy to stay airborne.
At this point they drop to the floor or attach to a nearby surface. This removes them from the air you breathe and prevents them from causing respiratory problems, such as asthma and allergies, and even more serious pollution related illnesses in the long term, like lung cancer.
Unfortunately, our homes and workplaces are usually sealed off from the natural benefits of negative ions.
Even if you do keep your windows open, aside from all the air pollution, if you live in a busy town or city then the concentration of ions in the air may only be a tenth of that found in country environments.
Add to that positive ion producing air conditioning, electrical equipment like televisions, microwave ovens and clothes dryers, and even carpet and upholstery, and our homes have become what has been described as ‘positive ion prisons’.
12 Health Benefits of Negative Ions
So just what can negative ions do for you in terms of improving your health and well-being?
- Negative ions increase your sense of well-being and mental clarity by removing the debilitating effects of excessive positive ions in your environment. They are often described as a natural antidepressant.
- Negative ions are proven to clear the air of dust, pollen, pet dander, mold spores and other potential allergens.
- Negative ions can significantly decrease airborne viruses and bacteria anywhere you are.
- Exposure to anions improves the function of the cilia in your respiratory tract that protect your lungs from irritation and inflammation, thus leading to less instances of respiratory illnesses like colds and flu and even hay-fever and asthma.
- Air ionizers have a relaxing effect and have been reported to normalize your breathing rate, decrease blood pressure and relieve tension. Because anions are absorbed directly into the bloodstream, they may help to combat harmful free radicals within your body.
- Studies demonstrated that high levels of negative ions can be an effective treatment for Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
- Improved energy levels and focus. Research at the University of California showed anion exposure normalized serotonin levels in the brain, potentially improving a person’s positive outlook and mood.
- Better sleep. A French study found using negative ion technology could help you to sleep better. This is once again due to their positive effects in normalizing serotonin production in the brain.
- Reduces instances of headaches and sickness. The company Norwich Union found installing ionic air cleaners in a work area full of computers and other electronic equipment reduced instances of reported sickness and headaches by 78%. Ion generators are also routinely used in hospitals in Europe for their beneficial impact on patient’s health and healing rates.
- Elevated mental concentration and performance. Testing has regularly shown that subjects exposed to high levels of anions perform better in mentally challenging tasks than those breathing normal positive ion dense air. Pierce J. Howard PhD at the Center for Applied Cognitive Sciences says in the Owner’s Manual for the Brain – “Negative ions increase the flow of oxygen to the brain; resulting in higher alertness, decreased drowsiness, and more mental energy.”
- Research showed negative ion exposure improved physical performance as well. A study entitled ‘An investigation of the effects of negative air ions on responses to submaximal exercise at different times of day’ showed that: “negative air ions significantly reduced resting values of all physiological variables” and “are biologically active and that they do affect the body’s circadian rhythmicity”.
- One explanation for these positive effects can be found in a research paper called ‘The stimulatory effect of negative air ions and hydrogen peroxide on the activity of superoxide dismutase’. Scientists found that anions boosted concentrations of the antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD), one of your body’s primary defenses against oxidative stress. They concluded: “The primary physicochemical mechanism of beneficial biological action of negative air ions is suggested to be related to the stimulation of superoxide dismutase activity by micromolar concentrations of H2O2.”