When I began investigatin the ion effect, I soon found that I was hardly a pioneer. In fact, I discovered that so much was already known about ionization and its effects that the astounding thing was not so much the effect that ions have on us all, but that hardly anything had been done with the knowledge already available.
It was not unitl the 1890's that scientists found that this air electricity comes from charged molecules, or ions, of gas. In the 1920's science still knew little about the phenomenon, but researchers had begun to take seriously the claims of the natural philosophers who argued that air electricity was in fact a vital part of the process that creates and sustains life. Only in the past decade, however, have scientists been able to actually prove that when nature or man starts meddling with air electricity, life can become insufferable for some of us, and uncomfortable for all of us.
As is the case with all matter, the air is made up of molecules. Each molecule has a core, or nucleus of positively charged protons surrounded by negatively charged electrons. Nature constantly seeks an equilibrium in all things, and in this case it seeks a balance in which there are as many electrons as protons so that the positive and negative charges cancel one another out. This happens in a stable, or passive molecule of air. But while you may not be able to see a molecule, scientists can actually weigh its component parts. Since an electron is 1,800 times lighter than a proton, it is the electron that is most easily displaced, and when that happens the equilibrium is upset and a "maverick" molecule, or ion is created.
The active electricity in the air comes from these "maverick" molecules, those that have lost or gained a negative electron so that the equilibrium is upset. If a molecule loses an electron it becomes positively charged, while if that displaced electron attaches itself to a normal molecule, that molecule becomes negatively charged. In what nature considers "ideal" environments for living things, that is relatively clean air over open country, the energy needed to displace electrons and so create charged molecules comes mostly from the minute quantities of radioactive substances that are present in the soil and rocks everywhere, and from the rays of the sun.
Because the earth itself is negatively charged it tends to repel the negative ions, to drive them away from the area near the surface where life of all kinds exists. Similarly, it tends to act as a magnet to positive ions and draws them into this surface area. Consequently, there are usually more positive ions than negative ions even on a glorious summers day in the country. The accepted scientific wisdom is that while there are somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 ions in every cubic centimeter of air over open land, the usual ratio is 5 positive to 4 negative. It is in this ion ratio, or balance, that life exists.
Scientists at the University of California grew barley, oats, lettuce, and peas with a total of only 60 positive and negative ions and found that growth was stunted and the plants were diseased. The same experiment in air with more than double the natural number of ions produced accelerated growth. In Russia, scientists tried to raise small animals; mice, rats, guinea pigs, rabbits, in air with no ions in it at all. They all died within days.
James B. Beal, formerly of the National Areonautic and Space Administration, who came across the ion problem while studying the kind of environment needed in space capsules, has written: "The human race was developed in ionized air. Nature used the ions in developing our biological processes." In Japan, Russia, Israel, Brazil and throughout Europe scientists have proved that it's not only unhealthy for plants and mice when the natural ion count is upset, it's just as damaging to human physical and mental well being. That natural balance of 5 positive to 4 negative ions is another example of nature struggling to achieve equilibrium: Ions of both charges are presumably vital to normal life, and the ratio seems to be as important as the total number of ions in the air.
You can upset the balance one way and do harm, yet if you do it the other way it seems to do nothing but good. By now there are around 5,000 scientific documents in a score or more languages reporting experiments with ionization, and all support the conclusion that, an overdose of positive ions is bad for you while an overload of negaive ions seems to be beneficial.