Ionic Breeze Quadra Air Purifier - The Saga of the Ionic Breeze Quadra Air Purifier - The Product, The Critics, Sharper Image Responds, Decline and Rebirth
consumer purifiers reports controversy
You might not realize that there was significant controversy surrounding one of this decade’s largest consumer trends, air purifiers. It mainly centered around the Sharper Image’s Ionic Breeze Quadra air purification devices, which rustled up significant public debate and even large-scale lawsuits over its effectiveness. Here is the story of what happened.
The Sharper Image produced its first Ionic Breeze Quadra shortly after the turn of the century to wide consumer acclaim. They said it could silently remove a large portion of dust, mold, allergens, and other foreign particles from the air – and best of all, it did it without using a filter. Instead, particles were trapped on oppositely charged stainless steel blades, which could then be simply wiped off with a wet cloth.
Consumers all over the country said they could sense a difference in their house’s air quality, and millions of units were sold despite the hefty price tag of $350. But the product testers at Consumer Reports had another story to tell.
Consumer Reports released an in-depth study of air purifiers, specifically Sharper Image’s Ionic Breeze Quadra Air Purifiers. Through their experiments, they concluded that the air purifiers did not have a significant effect on airborne pollen, dust, smoke, or other particles that it claimed to absorb. And worse yet, they reported that ozone levels from the purifier could be potentially harmful to customers!
The concept of a “health” product that is actually harmful to the user has a way of grabbing people’s attention. News outlets all over the country were abuzz with the controversy, and Sharper Image’s rival companies began touting the reports as proof that consumers should return to their more traditional models. After the Consumer Reports study, Sharper Image’s stock began to plunge.
Sharper Image Responds
Seeing a big potential problem, Sharper Image vigorously defended its product, to the point of bringing a libel lawsuit against Consumer Reports, saying that their study was malicious and falsified. However, the suit was dismissed, and Sharper Image was forced to pay $525,000 to Consumer Reports in order to cover their legal costs.
Shortly after the suit was dismissed, Consumer Reports released another article that reaffirmed their opposition to the Ionic Breeze Quadra air purifiers. Sharper Image held on to its positive customer reviews and continued to produce the product.
Decline and Rebirth
Bruised by all the controversy and legal costs, Sharper Image slowly declined over the next few years, until finally declaring bankruptcy in 2008. Today, you can still find air purifiers and other consumer electronics at SharperImage.com, but they have essentially cut ties with their original Ionic Breeze line of products. (Although you can still find them on Amazon.com and other e-commerce sites).
SharperImage.com has a new line of purifiers called IonFlow, which they bill as “the next revolution” in air purification. They still have a filter-free design, which has proven to be a big selling point. And while they are a little more pricey than the Ionic Breezes were, they have received even higher consumer reviews. Consumer Reports still takes issue with the amount of ozone produced by many of the current air purifiers on the market, but to date no large controversy has broken out over this new line.