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J Negat Results Biomed. 2013 Sep 9;12:14. doi: 10.1186/1477-5751-12-14.

Air ions and respiratory function outcomes: a comprehensive review.

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Exponent, Health Sciences, 17000 Science Drive, Suite 200, Bowie, MD 20715, USA.



From a mechanistic or physical perspective there is no basis to suspect that electric charges on clusters of air molecules (air ions) would have beneficial or deleterious effects on respiratory function. Yet, there is a large lay and scientific literature spanning 80 years that asserts exposure to air ions affects the respiratory system and has other biological effects.


This review evaluates the scientific evidence in published human experimental studies regarding the effects of exposure to air ions on respiratory performance and symptoms.


We identified 23 studies (published 1933-1993) that met our inclusion criteria. Relevant data pertaining to study population characteristics, study design, experimental methods, statistical techniques, and study results were assessed. Where relevant, random effects meta-analysis models were utilized to quantify similar exposure and outcome groupings.


The included studies examined the therapeutic benefits of exposure to negative air ions on respiratory outcomes, such as ventilatory function and asthmatic symptoms. Study specific sample sizes ranged between 7 and 23, and studies varied considerably by subject characteristics (e.g., infants with asthma, adults with emphysema), experimental method, outcomes measured (e.g., subjective symptoms, sensitivity, clinical pulmonary function), analytical design, and statistical reporting.


Despite numerous experimental and analytical differences across studies, the literature does not clearly support a beneficial role in exposure to negative air ions and respiratory function or asthmatic symptom alleviation. Further, collectively, the human experimental studies do not indicate a significant detrimental effect of exposure to positive air ions on respiratory measures. Exposure to negative or positive air ions does not appear to play an appreciable role in respiratory function.

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