The Life and Death of the Electric Water Ionizer

An electric water ionizer is a device out of Japan and Korea that filters water and passes the filtered water through an electrolysis chamber.

Output water comes in two separate streams; one alkaline, one acid.
Users drink the alkaline water and use the acid water for home or skin cleansing and general disinfection.

If you haven’t even heard of the invention, you’re not alone. It’s still relatively unknown in the West, but the Japanese began using it around 1984. It emerged concurrently in Russia, Germany and Scotland. The Japanese, it appears, er.. obtained – the technology from Russia.

Because it’s more expensive – and harder to understand – than a water filter, most sales are made using multi level marketing companies.

These companies have the luxury of appointing ‘independent distributors’ who cost the company nothing to canvass their family, friends and community for other prospective users and sellers.

There’s certainly nothing new about the MLM system; it’s used by some massive US-based companies and is best when the cost of selling a product is high – usually due to the newness or complexity of the product. One Japanese company, Enagic, although holding only about 5% market share in its home country, has the lion’s share of the market in the US and other Western countries due in part to its high commission payouts. The product is certainly solidly built, if somewhat basic in filtration ability. It offers a basic GAC filter and most users decide to add up to three prefilters to bring the filtration up to modern standards capable of reducing chloramines, fluoride and heavy metals.

Up until recently the general ‘pitch’ to prospects was that it was the alkalinity of the water plus a mysterious yet attractive ‘microclustering’ concept that caused the health improvements people reported.  

Local water dealers seemed like deer in headlights as the highly organized sales system rolled out. 

Independent MLM distributors, unconstrained or ignorant of FDA prohibitions on advertising therapeutic effects, spread stories of miraculous healings on a one-to-one friend-to-friend level; the essence and unique advantage of MLM. Their sales pitch was partly the miraculous benefits of the water, half the benefits of the huge commissions they promised.

Opposing opinions soon emerged. Stephen Lauer, retired chemistry professor, created a website titled ‘Alkaline Water: Snake Oil on Tap’ and persistently appeared on Google’s front pages, attracting huge traffic.

The independent MLM distributor strives to make the sale before the prospect researches the internet, and a mark of their success in the US alone is the declared gross income of Enagic USA last year of $165 million. With a price of up to $5000 that’s still a lotta water ionizers.

What about the establishment water filter industry?

To this day nothing has been published about water ionizers in industry journals. The neighbourhood water filter dealer seemed to either completely misunderstand the water ionizer or see it as irrelevant. The only response seemed to be the addition of calcium mineralizing cartridges to existing systems. In the meantime the number of water ionizer manufacturers in Japan and Korea (and now) China blossomed, and more and more ‘independent distributors’ appeared across the globe as their multi-level earning plan kicked into gear.

That is, until recently.
When Tyler LeBaron, a young biochemist from Boise, Idaho bought a $4000 water ionizer from an Enagic independent distributor, he was excited with the concept and the possibility of supplementing his basic tutoring income.  However… when he showed it to his professors at Brigham Young University, they laughed at him.

He was not happy. Young Tyler decided that he would research the stories he had been fed about the effects of alkaline water and the mysterious ‘microclustering’.

What he discovered is changing the industry.

Tyler discovered that microclustering was a sales myth. There was simply no reasonable amount of science to support it. The idea of ‘smaller water’ was a story to explain the taste and experience of drinking ionized water.

Alkaline water, while shown in metastudies to benefit overall health when compared to pure water, did not explain the stories distributors were bringing back from users and posting on the net. Many of these stories verged on miraculous, in medical conditions including, but not limited to, the ‘big’ ones.

Scientists and doctors did what scientists and doctors are meant to do.
They pointed out the lack of strong science in the form of large scale testing.
The thousands of salespeople countered, saying that science and doctors were in cahoots to keep the truth from the people. And yet, at the end of the day, as the ‘Snake Oil Professor’, Stephen Lauer pointed out, no studies means no proof.

So on the one hand we had the scientists who did not have the public exposure. On the other, thousands of salespeople, all motivated by the promise of years of residual income.

LeBaron decided to take the simplest scientific investigative approach. What actually happened when the water passed through the electric field in the electrolysis chamber? By reducing it to actual verifiable formulae, he realized that something was added to the water that no-one had ever talked about.

The process of passing water through an electrolysis chamber added H2 to the water. Tyler discovered that unlike alkaline water, or microclustering, H2, a.k.a. molecular hydrogen or diatomic hydrogen was gathering a formidable number of scientific studies, mainly from Japan.

On further investigation on the web, he unearthed a thriving scientific community devoted to the study of therapeutic effects of molecular hydrogen. In 2007 the first study, written by Japanese scientists, was published in the American ‘Nature’ journal.

In the space of seven years, this has gone from a trickle to a flood, with over 600 separate studies, and over 100 in the last year. 150 separate medical conditions have now been studied, from cancer, to bipolar disease to radiation sickness. The benefits of molecular hydrogen seem almost endless, but major ones include selective antioxidant capability, anti-inflammation, anti-apoptosis and cell signalling support.

Tyler decided that he needed to meet the scientists he read about on the net. He managed an invitation to Nagoya University where the majority of researchers assembled. The Japanese scientists were delighted to finally see a western scientist interested in something they had been dedicated to for over a decade. They already had a range of technologies designed to infuse hydrogen into water. Tyler had discovered a Pandora’s box of unknown, or at least unacknowledged science.

Immediately upon returning home, he opened a Facebook page. He (perhaps naively) thought that the large vendors would be happy about his news that what they had been telling people for years was wrong. Certainly, molecular hydrogen was very good news, because it explained the unexplainable – and it cancelled out the specious arguments of the MLM sellers.

Sellers went to great lengths to defend their pet theories against scientific opponents, and yet here, at last, there was verifiable science. They could, if they believed young Tyler, just drop all the effort to oppose the scientists and begin to talk about real science rather than pseudoscience.

Imagine his surprise when the opposite occurred.
He was accused of trying to wreck people’s financial future, of ‘being a scientist’ who doesn’t understand, and far more. He changed the name of his Facebook page to ‘Hydrogen Water’ and closed it to the public.

No selling was allowed, and no brand comparisons.

On his Facebook page, a strongly supportive nexus of inquiring minds (who also happened to be independent MLM distributors) gathered around him to discuss and learn from what he had learned. Tyler, to his credit, remained above intercompany and product rivalry and only talked science. Numbers grew to over 3000, a website was launched, ( and he formed a company (AquaSciences LLC)  to test water ionizers for H2 content.

What he discovered was amazing.

The human gut produces 10-15 litres of hydrogen a day. As a biochemist, he was already aware of this. But the infusion of a tiny amount of molecular hydrogen in drinking water seemed to be the reason for the amazing health testimonies spread across the web, attributed to ‘alkaline’ water and ‘microclustering’, but now verified in the many scientific reports from Japan.

How is it could be possible that although we produce so much H2 in our gut, a mere 5 parts per million in a litre of water has demonstrable health change, often overnight?

It makes no sense, and as Tyler says, the scientist who discovers why this happens will have a Nobel Prize award coming.

Tyler also made contact with the doyen of the Japanese scientists, 80-year old Professor Bunpei Sato, who had actually introduced electronic water ionizers to Japan almost 40 years earlier. Professor Sato had developed and patented a reagent test for the presence of H2 in water, and allowed Tyler to use and produce it in the US. His first test of the reagent was on his own electronic water ionizer. At atmospheric pressure, H2 will saturate at 1.6 ppm in water. Being the smallest molecule in the world, it is notoriously hard to contain, and a glass of water from his water ionizer began to lose its 0.3 ppm almost immediately.

And yet.. even at that low level, people were reporting amazing health gains. The next water ionizer he tested was developed by Australian company, AlkaWay and manufactured in the US. Ian Blair Hamilton, inventor and founder and managing director of AlkaWay, immediately saw Tyler’s findings as possible game-changing and sent his newly released UltraStream to Tyler from Australia.

The Ultrastream was very different. It used no electricity, had no electrolysis chamber, and used elemental magnesium to generate molecular hydrogen. Tyler tested it at 1 litre per minute flow and found it was producing over 3 times the H2 of his $4000 unit for just $600.

Higher levels are attainable with the electronic units, but as the H2 rises, so does the pH, to the point that it becomes undrinkable. It appears that even though the electronic ionizer as we know it has managed a foothold in the American and worldwide market, its days may be numbered unless its 30 year old technology fundamentally changes. It also may need to review its marketing practices. The claims it makes have been exposed for what they really are; just claims.

New technology is already emerging. A Korean system triple filters incoming water and passes it though a new form of electrolytic cell that infuses H2 but does not alter pH. It wastes no water because it does not split the water into 2 streams. Levels of H2 in water appear to relate directly to the health effects, and the new systems deliver many times more infused H2.

Three companies are selling forms of tablet that can be either ingested to release H2 in the stomach or dropped into a bottle and sealed. This method also gives H2 levels beyond the capability of an electronic water ionizer with no upfront investment.

Bubbling of H2 into water is something some DIY enthusiasts have toyed with. H2 on its own simply burns. H2 plus O2 is highly explosive, so this method seems to have no real future. Imagine a SodaStream that infuses H2 instead of CO2, and then imagine the user smoking.

It remains to be seen whether the marketing mindset of the MLM companies will be willing to earth itself and follow the scientific line. The stakes are very, very high. They now have the opportunity to even fund their own scientific studies so they can hold their head high in the marketplace and in the halls of science. Or not.

One thing is for sure. One brave young man has changed the industry, whether they like it or not. He is now organizing the first World Molecular Hydrogen Symposium. He is consulting with early adopter entrepreneurs from all over the globe, and yet he still lectures in biochemistry at Boise.

So the question arises: how will the traditional water filter vendor respond?

Will they respond? The quite amazing turnover of the leading player, Enagic exposes a blind spot of the industry. How did they let that happen? How were multi millionaires made by people with no knowledge of water filtration, selling a water system no-one knew about or even understood? And what lessons can be learned now that the true and amazing science of molecular hydrogen water has been released to the world?


Ian is the founder of AlkaWay, international water technology company, and inventor of the UltraStream, the world’s first and best natural hydrogen water filter and ionizer.

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