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The sweet smell and freshness of the air near a waterfall, at the beach or after a thunderstorm is something most of us relish. What causes this atmospheric magic, and why do we find it so refreshing?
An abundance of negative air ions is responsible for this rejuvenating experience. These ions scrub the air of pollen, dander, dust, smoke, bacteria and mold spores. Negative ions are nature’s air filter, and our senses register the effects.
A negative ion is created when a molecule of oxygen grabs and holds an extra electron, giving the oxygen molecule a negative charge. Moisture in the air, from microscopic water droplets, allows the oxygen molecule to hold onto the electron and maintain negative status. It is no wonder that negative ions are plentiful near rapids, at the seashore and in tropical rain forests.
One of the suggested health benefits of negative ions is their buoyant effect on a depressed mood, and it turns out there have been plausible studies done validating this claim. One study was done at Columbia University.
The Columbia research involved subjects diagnosed with seasonal affective disorder and who experienced winter depression symptoms.
Scientists do not know why negative ions lift a depressed mood. It could possibly affect serotonin, neutralize positive charges clinging to the body, or stimulate the pheromone-sensing vomeronasal structure in our nose causing signaling changes in the brain.
The favored hypothesis is that ionized air increases oxygen uptake by the lungs. If this proves to be true, and research is being done to check it out, increased oxygenation is the real mood lifter.
In air heavy with negative ions, pollutants will clump together forming heavy particles that fall to the floor or ground, clearing the air. Or pollutants can take on a negative charge and become neutralized when they bump into grounding objects such as your TV or computer.
Unfortunately, many of us live and work in atmospheres very low in air-washing negative ions.
If you are interested in using an ionizer to boost negative ions in your home or office, you will be wise to research and compare products first. Some ionizers on the market are too weak to be of much use, and some may not even produce negative ions. There are also ways to maximize the effectiveness of ionizers once you have a viable one. You can find helpful information at the Center for Environmental Therapeutics website.
Source: Terman, M. PhD, and McMahan, I. PhD, Chronotherapy, Penguin Group, 2012
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