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Consumer Reports Article: A rebuttal

Is the May 2005 Consumer Reports® Article
About "Ionizing Air Cleaners"
Telling Us All We Need To Know?

by Michael J. Waters
Comtech Research LLC

It goes without saying that Consumer Reports® ("CR") is a very well-respected and looked-up-to source of information. You cannot ignore the input of, say, hundreds of people who have shared their experiences of a certain make, model, and year of a certain type of automobile. I certainly consult Consumer Reports whenever I am about to purchase a car, riding mower, or major appliance. How can you beat having the input of the owners of thousands of the products you are interested in buying right there in your hands?

People look to CR as the last word, as expert authorities on all subjects. No question in our minds, (and probably most persons' minds) that Consumer Reports is a valuable resource of information.

Some say an infallible resource.

What do you say?

Please let me share some information with you that may surprise you.

Consumer Reports did a review on a competitor's air purifier some time ago on a product that really helped my wife's sensitivity to other women's perfumes. When CR reported that it was absolutely worthless, I about lost all faith in Consumer Reports. (What it was is a moot point, since it is no longer on the market in its same form).

That was several years ago. But what about the present?
CR has published other reviews on air purifiers, the most recent to date being the May 2005 issue.


What's wrong with the May '05 review?

Please take a look at the section of the review titled "A look at two types of air cleaners". After this heading, the next two lines are:

  • "Where ozone is produced"

Wouldn't you agree that they are loudly saying right here that all ionizers are something to be concerned about because they all produce ozone at a level that we should be concerned about?

Wait, there's more. Have you seen their illustration there? That's not an ionizer. What they show there is really an electrostatic precipitator. Sure there are ions produced inside. But that's not our definition of an ionizer (or anybody else's, for that matter).

Sure, there are companies selling this kind of stuff, claiming that they are ionizers. But that does not make them ionizers, even if ions are generated inside the unit.

Doesn't it make sense to you that a product that is called an "Air Ionizer" or "Ionizing Air Cleaner" to be true to its label needs to generate negative ions out into the air you're breathing? This has historically been the definition for an "ionizer". This definition has been in use and almost universally accepted for decades.

The Two Air Purifiers They Recommended

Are they good? We have never seen them. And we have no reason to believe otherwise. But we have spoken to customers that got so tired of listening to the constant fan noise— on one of the recommended products— that he decided not to operate it. He obtained one of our IG-133A silent ionizers to use in place of it.

But there are other air purifiers worth having than those two; for a lot less money and that are completely silent.

And we are convinced (not only from our years of experience with them, but also from what our customers have always said) that ours are worth having, too. You don't know me, but if they weren't, I wouldn't sell them. Period.

And that's not all. Look at the other statements throughout, including statements such as

  • "Ionizers ... are adding ozone indoors".
  • "...ionizers create ozone as a byproduct..."

Not always the case, provided they are designed and built properly.*

We happen to know enough about the subject of air purification to say that the CR article sure does need some clarification.

Consumer Reports has an enormous amount of both respect and power. But can they make mistakes? Is Consumer Reports infallible? When Consumer Reports decides to do a review on a particular class of products (as they did here, and as they do in every issue), do they automatically take in all the knowledge of all the engineers,scientists, researchers, etc. (not to mention the experiences of everyone who has ever bought any type of that class of product)? The answer seems obvious. What do you think? You be the judge.

We do know that as soon as that review came out, it sure did hurt our small business. Not only did our sales of every type of air purifier we offer drop dramatically (right after the 5/05 issue hit the newsstands), but many people who had purchased our products returned them en masse. Is it just a coincidence? No way. Some of them plainly said it was because of that CR article, which implied that Ionizer = Ozone = BAD. So help me, that is just not true.

CR sure has power. Power to change people's minds and even make them forget a positive experience. I hope their power doesn't run an honest company out of business.

At the beginning, I mentioned that "How can you beat having the input of the owners of thousands of the products you are interested in buying right there in your hands?". Well, where is the product owner's input in this article? I don't see any, do you? I guarantee that if you had free access to customer feedback for our IG-133-series of ionizer models, you might see two complaints out of all the thousands we have sold over the years. I am not making this up.

Sure, in that article they say "some" ionizers might be harmful. And admittedly, it might even be said that a careful study of that article is not loudly proclaiming that all ionizers are bad. But do you have the time to study and reread articles? Apparently, neither do most people.

One company has even filed a complaint about the article FTC Against Consumer Reports Magazine, saying that the "Watch Dog Agency May Be Doing Consumers More Harm Than Good".

There's a lot more that could be said about the Consumer Reports review. What do you think? We'd like to hear from you.


* And, you might properly ask, what do you mean by "designed correctly"? There are several factors. However, all that we can share with the world is we certainly believe that after spending hundreds of hours in our lab, we know what it takes.

Press Release

Consumer Reports is a registered trademark of Consumer's Union of U.S., Inc.


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