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April 12, 2005

BehindTheMedspeak: Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Air Purifier May Cause Lung Damage


Who knew?

Certainly not the hundreds of thousands of people who dropped $450 a pop for a big, fancy-looking silent device (above) purported to clean their air.

Now Consumer Reports tells us in its current (May) issue that not only does the Sharper Image product not work as it's supposed to but instead causes indoor air pollution by releasing unhealthy amounts of ozone.

The Environmental Protection Agency website in its discussion of ozone states, "Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and, throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections.... Healthy people, as well as those with respiratory difficulty, can experience breathing problems when exposed to ozone."

January W. Payne's story in today's Washington Post explores the issue thoroughly, presenting both sides of the burgeoning controversy.

The Sharper Image has got its baggies* in a twist over the new report.

You could see how that could happen, considering that about 30% of the company's income derives from sales of this one product.

Consumer Reports in October 2003 published a report stating that the Ionic Breeze performed poorly at removing dust and smoke particles from the air.

Sharper Image sued them for libel but got slapped in the face by a federal court, which dismissed the lawsuit and fined the company $520,000 in legal costs for bringing the suit.


No wonder the Sharper Image is spluttering and circling the wagons: federal courts do not take kindly to being trifled with and the company knows better than to take its failed complaint back for a second doomed round of litigation.

What fascinated me after the initial report in 2003 is that the devices sold like hotcakes anyway.

I guess if you spend enough for advertising, newspapers and magazines won't harp on stuff that's not to your advantage.

However, the company's not faring so well this time around, after this second knockout punch: the stock lost 9% in one day last week after the new Consumer Reports study was announced; that brought the NASDAQ-listed shares down near their 52-week low of $14.08.

Let me clear the air a bit for you: I have created an air cleaner which works better than the Ionic Breeze and I'm going to offer it to you, my readers, at no charge for a limited time.

It's a shoebox.

Yes, a plain, ordinary, empty shoebox, just like the ones in your closet.

Put it out in a place where it comes in contact with the air circulating through your apartment or house.

It is silent — just like the Ionic Breeze.

It has no moving parts — just like the Ionic Breeze.

It is free — unlike the $450 Ionic Breeze.

It does not produce health-damaging ozone — unlike the Ionic Breeze.

The choice is yours.

*Jamaican patois for knickers

April 12, 2005 at 04:01 PM | Permalink


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» Ionic Breeze of Death (Well, Not Really) from Gizmodo
The Washington Post is running a story about the Sharper Image's 'Ionic Breeze' air fresheners, passing on information from Consumer Reports that details a dangerously high level of incidental ozone generation when using the device. It's not just the I... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 13, 2005 9:49:50 AM

» Ah... the Sweet Smell of Ozone from Chasing the Wind
Ya know, it should have dawned on me. I bought a Sharper Image over a year ago and was pretty happy with it. It's very quiet, and cleaning it's a snap. Just pull the blades out and wipe; they get covered with black goop so it's obviously cleaning so... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 13, 2005 11:50:23 AM

» Minister of Phyla from NIF
Today's dose of NIF - News, Interesting & Funny [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 14, 2005 12:32:21 PM


What exactly is ozone and what does it smell like anyway?

Posted by: | Sep 7, 2008 11:17:01 PM

ATTENTION!!! Ozone is hazardous to your health!

Posted by: anon | Aug 20, 2008 8:59:40 PM

Hey, I have two Ionic Breezes...one that spews ozone and stinks and the older original one that doesn't....I don't use the ozony one but I still use the other and it has UNDENIABLY reduced my allergy reactions in my house. My town is notorious for lousy air and the Ionic Breeze has helped me tremendously in spite of what Consumer Reports says. If you have allergys or asthma, GET AN IONIC BREEZE, THEY HELP!!

Posted by: Sal Lucido | Aug 12, 2008 9:01:27 AM

consumer reports is a joke!!!!!!!!!


Posted by: seriouslyitis | Jan 25, 2008 7:20:12 PM

laughing my ass off!!! you were poisoned by the ionic breeze from its output of ozone?? hahaahh hahahahahahah!

other electrical appliances like your tv, monitor, laser printers, hair dryer, and more emitt ozone also . geez u find something out and contribute all your problems to it.

Your upper respiratory infection cannot be from a single source , rather it is multifactorial

Posted by: lololol | Jan 25, 2008 7:16:12 PM

I was told I had a mold allergy and to get an ionizer. I was told there was no mold in the house but that after the rains when the sun comes out mold spores are released at dawn and I sleep with open windows. For some time I've had very severe coughing in the morning but hadn't connected it to the environment. I was thinking maybe lung cancer or something. I tried several places and eventually wandered into sharper image. I had never heard of ionic breeze or seen any advertising. I just liked that it was on sale and it was silent. The first morning after sleeping with the ionic breeze the coughing was gone. I still sleep with the window open but it is ok. If I go outside in the morning I usually start coughing a bit. It really amazed me that the cough was from mold spores!!! I don't care what consumer reports says I love that thing!!! It really works.

Posted by: Spirit | May 17, 2006 1:22:38 AM

People don't seem to understand what "falls under the EPA guidelines" actually means. The EPA states that for in-home use an electronic device may not produce more than 150ppm ozone. In hospitals that level is just 1/3rd of that, at 50ppm. The Ionic Breeze was tested to put out 27ppm with the front grill removed and the sensor nearly against the collection plates. Hair dryers, clothes dryers, monitors, tv's, and fax machines put out far more ozone.

Do a little research before just blindly believing any story - be it from Consumer Reports or not.

Posted by: Heather | May 15, 2006 9:30:35 AM

omgosh i cant believe this product was useless i mean i spent a fortune on it and i got nothing but a lung full of a poisonous gas!

Posted by: amanda | Mar 28, 2006 8:52:39 AM

Anyone who has used (and cleaned) an IB knows that it clearly scrubs particles out of the air... Additionally... it only puts out any significant amount of ozone if you let it get all caked with junk and never clean it...

I've got numerous allergies (many airborn) and have searched for air purifiers for years before getting a few IB's... While it does (occationaly, when not clean) give off an ozone smell, the amount of ozone that all 4 of my units have given off over the past 3+ years is nothing compared to the amount of ozone that a single 'ozinator' 'air purifier' puts out in a single day... There are numerous 'air cleaning' products that speu tons of ozone (i had a small desktop unit, smaller than a 2 liter bottle, that filled my entire house with ozone in just a few hours)... Ionic Breeze is not one of them... The worste I've had it is from a filter that wasn't cleaned in 6+ months, caked with black stuff, next to an open door during a rainstorm...and obviously that's not the way to use it effectivley...

Posted by: IB User | Jan 24, 2006 9:17:45 AM

I was wanting to buy the Oreck XL purifier but was checking other prices when I found your web. Does the Oreck also have the ozone problems.

Thank you for your help.

Posted by: Karen | Dec 19, 2005 11:39:26 PM

We have used two of these in our ofice for years and recently I developed the exact symtoms described. Not sure if it's the cause, how would one find out? I also heard just this morning that Sharper Image is giving full store refunds for anyone wanting to return them? Sounds a bit crazy if they represent 30% of their income. Don't think I'd buy stock right now!

Posted by: Ken Stanton | Dec 7, 2005 2:53:43 PM

The Ionic Breeze is $350, or currently $300. Your statement of it costing $450 is incorrect, even for the commercial Breeze, as it costs over $500, I believe.

Didn't Sharper Image fix the ozone problem? Sincerely Kelli Locascio

Posted by: Kelli Locascio | Oct 16, 2005 12:08:34 AM

Thank you so much for your article. My husband and I, after being poisoned by the Sharper Image's ionic breeze, we thought how could we have been so naive? We will now consult Consumer Reports. I think the court was too kind( I suffered an upper respiratory infection as a result of the ozone). I'll stick to the shoebox from now on.

Posted by: Lara | Oct 2, 2005 9:20:10 PM

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