|Consumers Union on Sharper Image|
This article appeared in the NCCC newsletter, dated September 2005.
Consumers Union stands fully by its article, "Air Cleaners: Some Do Little Cleaning," published in the October 2005 issue of Consumer Reports. In a statement issued September 9, 2005, The Sharper Image offered journalists a misleading and inaccurate characterization of the results of our latest testing of its Ionic Breeze room air cleaner.
It is important to note that Consumers Union performs two separate tests on air cleaners we review: a test of the product's ability to clean the air - i.e., to remove particulate matter, including dust and cigarette smoke - and a test for ozone generation. In its statement to the media, Sharper Image seems to confuse the two.
CU tested the SI637 and SI737 Ionic Breeze models, thousands of which remain in consumers' homes. We first learned about the newer OzoneGuard-equipped Ionic Breeze when Sharper Image publicly announced its availability in July 2005, after the testing for our October report was completed. We are currently testing the new model for both air cleaning and ozone generation. After we complete these tests, we will make the results public.
Sharper Image's contention that our prior test data showed the Ionic Breeze was "effective" at removing smoke and dust is wrong and is not supported by our criteria for effectiveness, our data, our analysis, nor by anything that we published. In fact, these assertions were the subject of a lawsuit that Sharper Image filed against us in 2003. That lawsuit was dismissed in September 2004, with the federal judge in the case ruling that Sharper Image could not prove any of its complaints about our testing and reporting. Sharper Image subsequently withdrew its appeal of that decision and paid Consumers Union $525,000 to cover our legal expenses, and not a single word in our published report was changed.
As we stated in our October 2003 report, even in long-term testing, the Ionic Breeze "proved unimpressive" and our tests "found almost no measurable reduction in airborne particles." We consider a Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) removal rate of under 100 to be ineffective; Sharper Image's results were consistently in the 20s for dust and smoke. Indeed, even over the course of 17 hours, the highest-rated air cleaners we tested, set on "low," removed more than 25 times the particulate matter of the Ionic Breeze, set on "high."
Finally, Sharper Image takes issue with our May 2005 report on ozone generation. We stand by the findings of that report. In fact, the Sharper Image unit we tested for the May issue emitted more than three times the Underwriters Laboratories' acceptable limit of 50 parts per billion for ozone emission. The credibility of this testing has never been questioned, and we note that Sharper Image itself appears to be attempting to address ozone concerns with the introduction of its new OzoneGuard-equipped models. Again, we expect to release the results of our tests of these units, for both air cleaning and ozone reduction, in the coming weeks.