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Is the air we breathe ionized? I am reading a book that says that the air we breathe is ionized but from what I have read so far, it is only the air in the upper atmosphere that is ionized.

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  • $\begingroup$ Nearly every gas is ionized to some degree; the question is, how small does the ionization fraction have to be before you call it negligible? $\endgroup$ – probably_someone Mar 20 '18 at 20:17
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Yes, a small part of the air molecules is ionized (caused for example by ionizing radiation, such as cosmic radiation or emitted by radioactive elements; but you can also buy air purifiers that ionize air using UV radiation).

A quick search tell us that outdoor air typically has 100 to 1000 ions per cubic centimeter, both positive and negative. That's roughly 1 ion per $10^{19}$ molecules.

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Radiation from the sun and other energy sources can ionize the atmosphere, but it happens higher up in the atmosphere.

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    $\begingroup$ That's only half of the story. Cosmic ray particles can make it down to the surface or cause secondary radiation even at sea level. This becomes apparent when you look at a bubble chamber. It's teaming with particles and it only works because the ionized particles are condensation nuclei. $\endgroup$ – Jens Mar 20 '18 at 20:11

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