Ion generators act by charging the particles in a room so that they are attracted to walls, floors, tabletops, draperies, occupants, etc. Abrasion can result in these particles being resuspended into the air. In some cases these devices contain a collector to attract the charged particles back to the unit. While ion generators may remove small particles (e.g., those in tobacco smoke) from the indoor air, they do not remove gases or odors, and may be relatively ineffective in removing large particles such as pollen and house dust allergens. Although some have suggested that these devices provide a benefit by rectifying a hypothesized ion imbalance, no controlled studies have confirmed this effect.
Ozone, a lung irritant, is produced indirectly by ion generators and some other electronic air cleaners and directly by ozone generators. While indirect ozone production is of concern, there is even greater concern with the direct, and purposeful introduction of a lung irritant into indoor air. There is no difference, despite some marketers' claims, between ozone in smog outdoors and ozone produced by these devices. Under certain use conditions ion generators and other ozone generating air cleaners can produce levels of this lung irritant significantly above levels thought harmful to human health.