Advanced Research on Atmospheric Ions
and Respiratory Problems

by Guy Cramer, Sept. 2,1996

Ions are small particles that take on an electrical charge. In nature we tend to find between a few hundred to a few thousand of these ions per cubic centimeter. The small particles that take on this charge are either negatively charged, positively charged or neutral. In a cubic centimeter of air out over a grass field, we find the ratio is almost balanced between negative ions and positive ions. In other words we are breathing quantities of electricity.

Positive ions are known to make asthma victims worse. Positive ion winds such as the Chinook Wind in Calgary, Alta., Canada and the Santa Ana Winds in Southern California are known to coincide with Asthma attacks. There are many areas around the would known for positive ion winds (times when the ion balance has more positive ions per cubic centimeter than negative ions).

A Doctor treating burn victims with negative ion generators found that those patients who also had respiratory problems - chronic bronchitis or asthma - all reported that negative ion therapy helped them breath more easily. With these findings the Doctor started research into the effects of ions on respiratory ills. This research was carried out at the Northeastern Hospital, at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate Hospital, and the Frankford Hospital in Philadelphia. He found 63% of patients suffering from hay fever or bronchial asthma "have experienced partial or total relief" because of negative ion therapy. One hospital doctor who worked on the project said later, " They come in sneezing, eyes watering, nose itching, worn out from lack of sleep, so miserable they can hardly walk. Fifteen minutes in front of the negative ion machine and they feel so much better they don't even want to leave."

In Britain two Oxford University statisticians conducted a study among 100 victims of asthma, bronchitis, and hay fever chosen at random from a list of people who had purchased negative ion generators in the hope that it would help their problems. In the end their report was based on interviews with only 74 of the 100. They found that 18 of 24 asthmatics; 13 of 17 bronchitis sufferers; 11 of 12 hay fever victims; and 6 of 10 people afflicted with nasal catarrh reported that negative ion generators had noticeably improved their condition. A few claimed the generator had cured them.

Brazilian Hospitals have commonly used ionizing devices for the treatment of breathing problems, including allergies, following a test involving 36 children with asthmatic allergies. All of them had consistent and in some cases crippling problems before taking negative ion therapy; during the treatment only one of them suffered an allergy attack and afterward all were reportedly cured, at least to the point that they no longer suffered problems so long as they took part in occasional negative ion therapy sessions.

In 1966 at a hospital in Jerusalem, doctors performed a series of tests on thirty- eight infants between two and twelve months old. All suffered to about the same degree from respiratory problems. They were divided into two groups of nineteen, one kept as a control group in a ward without any ion charge and the other where a negative ion generator was in use. The researchers reported that negative ions without any other treatment - that is, no drugs - seemed to cure attacks of asthma and bronchitis more quickly than drugs, antibiotics included. They also observed that there were none of the "adverse side effects" frequently found when treating such children with drugs. They concluded that the children treated with negative ions were less prone to "rebound attacks" (relapses). As to objectivity, the scientific report said that the tests "demonstrated that the atmospheric ions have an effect on infants, especially those suffering from asthmatic bronchitis." Less scientifically, they found that babies didn't cry as often and as loudly when they were breathing negative ions as they did in normal air. And there is nothing subjective about a bawling baby.

In humid areas - New York in high summer, for instance, or in Toronto - part of the familiar discomfort is caused by the fact that air becomes ion-depleted. Really humid days are murder for anyone suffering from asthma or any respiratory allergy, and the fact that such people find it difficult to breath in hot, humid air may have less to do with the amount of oxygen in the air then with the massive negative ion depletion. Air electricity is quickly conducted to the ground by the moisture in the air, and what negative ions there are attach themselves to particles of moisture and dust and lose their charge. We have seen how positive ions make breathing more difficult and reduce the body's ability to absorb oxygen; and how negative ions help breathing and improve oxygen absorption.

The ion count is always low in cities where there's precious little open ground to generate them. Pollution makes a bad situation worse, since it tends to deplete the negative ion count even more. The high pollen count in certain parts of North America each fall cuts even further into the negative ion count, since pollen has the same effect as dust. The end result is that the total ion count in cities is always down to what many scientists consider perilously low levels. As if that weren't bad enough, the normal 5 - 4 ratio of positive ions to negative ions is distorted so that people are, in a sense, victims of positive ion poisoning.

Hot or cool air forced through the duct work of most central heating and air- conditioning systems sets up friction that results in the loss of almost all the negative ions and also draws most of the positive ions out of the air as well. Then comes the coup-de-grace: This air with some positive and virtually no negative ions is forced out through vents in to rooms, offices and passages - and as it passes through the vents more friction is set up that generates an additional overload of positive ions. What finally comes out of most heating or air- conditioning outlets in the offices we work in and the rooms we live in is likely to be an overload of positive ions which will upset the mental and physical equilibrium of everyone, not only those of us who are ion sensitive.

Just how bad these systems are depends to a great extent on their design and the material from which the duct work is made. The design or layout of the whole system is crucial. At bends and curves and right-angle junctions the friction between ducts and air increases and has the effect of increasing the number of positive ions in the air. What comes out of the heating and cooling vents in any centrally heated or air-conditioned building is air that is not only low in total ions, but also has a heavy positive ion count when measured against the almost negligible quantity of negative ions. It is because of the design of this duct work that some parts of a building may be more "uncomfortable" to work in then others. That depends on whether you're on the receiving end of air that has passed a particular section of duct work, where there is a sharp bend near the outlet - as the air is forced around bends and corners there is greater friction and a consequent increase in positive ions.

Asthmatics or people with emphysema and other respiratory ills often suffer additional agonies because of the cloth they wear, and are just as often unaware of the reason why they suffer. Dr. Bernard Watson, professor of medical electronics at Britain's St. Bartholomew's Teaching Hospital in London, says: "Changing the immediate unhealthy ion environment to help asthmatic means changing everything, clothes, sheets, furniture - just everything." One of his patients a girl at that time of fourteen, who had begun to suffer from serve migraine because of clothing - and then cured it herself. When she grew to adolescence and began to wear, with great pride, nylon bras and panties favored by most women, she began to suffer from occasional headaches for the first time in her life. When she graduated to slips and night-dresses and pretty nylon blouses, she became a full-fledged migraine sufferer. Her local general practitioner could offer neither explanation nor help beyond suggesting the onset of menstruation as a cause. But the girl was bright enough to associate the clothes of blooming womanhood with her problem and promptly abandoned the feminine underwear and nightdresses. Now her clothes are of cotton, which is the only fiber that creates no charge at all, and of natural fibers like wool, which carry little charge of either kind. However, once migraine has taken root it is not easy to cure and Dr. Watson is still treating the girl, in part by suggesting to her parents that certain items of furniture in their home should be removed.

The Director of the Danish Air Ionization Institute, Christian Bach (electrical engineer) has studied the clothes and environments of asthmatics and others who suffer from positive ion poisoning, then pinpoints the offending fabrics and articles that are throwing the ion effect out of balance. Bach and his colleagues have worked with many hospitals in treating many victims of asthma and other respiratory ills.

Bach tells of what has become a classic case history involving a woman who had asthma in her own apartment but not in the homes of friends. Even a negative ion generator was of no help, so Bach conducted what must have been one of the oddest investigations in history: Was the culprit the furniture, the television set, the bedding, the lamp shades? Bach found that the lady's taste ran mostly to modern synthetic fabrics. However, that alone was insufficient to explain the problem, so Back began cross-examining the woman about her housekeeping. He found that her furniture was treated with cellulose and silicone-based furniture finishes. Laboratory tests proved that such finishes, when rubbed with polishing rags and dusters, produce a positive charge. Then he visited the friends in whose home her asthma condition disappeared. There he found that the furniture was hand polished with old-fashioned wax and elbow grease, which produced no static charge at all. Bach coated the victim's furniture with an anti-static compound, told her to buy antique furniture without modern wood treatments, and her asthma attacks ceased.

In all, Bach had by 1967 treated almost 1,000 hay fever and asthma cases whose problems were cured or eased by his "passive therapy" approach. in one case, he says, a man became an asthma victim because his wife bought two new lampshades that led to overproduction of positive ions; In another instance several members of the same family became sufferers because their new television set had a teak cabinet that had been treated with cellulose. He also. He also tells of one instance in which he was called in to help save the fortunes of a chicken farmer. The farmer had two monstrous chicken houses each housing 20,000 chickens. In one of them between 150 and 200 chickens died every week. Bach found that both chicken houses were of identical design and construction, except that the one where the chickens died had a roof lined with sheets of plastic while the other had a roof lined of wood. Whenever there was a change in whether the death rate went up. Bach concluded that when the whether changes affected air electricity the plastic stimulated the production of positive ion overdoses. He treated the roof with anti-static substance, and within weeks the chicken mortality rate was normal in both hen coops.

Bach says like all Scandinavians, the Danes keep their homes spotless, forever flourishing dusters, wielding brooms, pushing vacuum cleaners, and otherwise raising clouds of dust to which negative ions are attracted, and so disappear as physiologically active small ions. It is it would seem, healthier to be a sloppy housekeeper then a meticulous one. At the International Ion Research Conference in Philadelphia in 1961. Dr. Hansell ended his speech by saying that to prevent a buildup of potentially harmful ions the person who comes home from work should promptly take his shoes off and walk around the carpets in their stocking feet. And he added, "My suggestion to the house cleaner is that it is very well known fact that it is very difficult to get a charge from a dirty surface. They should not, I suggest be too house proud."

In the mid-1960s, Experiments showed that the cilia of the trachea, or windpipes, of small animals are stimulated by negative ions and depressed by positive ions. Human cilia, like those of small animals are microscopic hairs that maintain a whip like motion of about 100 beats per minute while cleaning the air we inhale of dust and pollen and other matter that should not reach the lungs. Subjected to tobacco smoke, which absorbs negative ions, the cilia slow down. Tobacco smoke plus positive ions make this slow-down take place from three to ten times more quickly than does smoke alone. An overdose of negative ions, however, neutralizes the effect of smoke on the cilia. Although this experiment took place in a laboratory and involved mice, rats, and rabbits, the implications are clear: Smoking and other forms pollution that absorb negative ions may also damage the ability of the cilia to clean the air that finally ends up in the lungs. Does that mean their is a relationship between positive ions and the incidence of lung cancer, particularly in smokers? As Bach points out, that is one of the many things about ionization we don't yet know, though scientists are investing the relationship.

The effect of ions on respiration is more obvious. The U.S. experimenters Windsor and Becket gave sixteen volunteer overdoses of positive ions for just 20 minutes at a time and all of them developed dry throats, husky voices, headaches, and itchy or obstructed noses. Five of the volunteers were tested for total breathing capacity, and it was found that a positive ion overdose reduced that capacity by 30 percent. Exposed to negative ions for ten minutes , the volunteers maximum breathing capacity was unaffected. What is significant here is that negative ions did not effect the amount of air breathed, but positive ions made breathing more difficult.

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