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Ionic Breeze Air Purifiers - A Closer Look at Ionic Breeze Air Purifiers

sharper image filter product

Since the Manhattan Project invented the HEPA filter in the 1940s, air purification has been a fairly attainable goal. It made the move from military to commercial use in the 50s and has since been used to relieve hospitals, planes, and residences from airborn pollutants. In fact, “HEPA” (acronymically, high efficiency particulate air) filters are the standard by which the US Office of Health, Safety, and Security measures clean air.

It is this standard that exposes ionic breeze air purifiers as rather useless products.

The idea behind them is like good science fiction: electricity, rather than a fan, draws dirt to the ionic air purifier. Essentially, it is the static electricity trick of rubbing a balloon on your head and sticking it to the wall, only on a microscopic scale. And that’s the catch for ionic breeze air purifiers: their scale. Without the aid of a fan, they only draw nearby pollutants, cleaning one corner of the room while sweeping up an occasional particle off the existing air currents. Even with a fan, an ionic filter does not compare to a HEPA, which uses air currents to trap particles in a more conventional, fabric-based filter.

The product is so inferior to existing fifty year-old technology that the Consumers Union rated it a failure. That’s when Sharper Image—the makers of the Ionic Breeze—sued them for libel. While the Consumers Union reported that the product did not filter air as well as it advertised, Sharper Image claimed that low-maintenance and quiet filtration were the main selling points of the Breeze. The case was scrapped under Anti-SLAPP legislation—a set of laws that keep companies from using lawsuits to bully consumers’ honest reportage of their product—and Sharper Image was made to pay $525,000 in legal fees for causing such a hassle.

In 2007, a discredited Sharper Image paid out millions in fines and mandatory sales while altering the methods in which its product was marketed. Although MSNBC speculated that the media attention and mandatory discounts would boost sales, the struggling company pawned most of its assets in 2008. Now, in 2010, the brand name is being revitalized as a market ploy, but it is as a subsidiary to other companies with very little that makes it a unique business entity.

Though we may see more of Sharper Image, it is unlikely that we will see more of ionic breeze air purifiers. Combining ineffective technology with a firm legal trouncing by the Consumers Union, the ionic breeze air purifier was the product flawed enough to end a company.

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