Danger: Air Purifier and Ozone Generator Health Effects

The Wizard of Oz

The most controversial type of home air purifier uses ozone oxidation.

It is potentially dangerous to the health of naive users.

In the hands of educated users and professional remediators, ozonation is a useful and practical tool.

The problem is marketers who fool millions into believing ozone is safe for routine daily household use as an air purifier.

This air purifying technology is also called "ozone machine" and "ozone generator."

The ozone-emitting air purifier is frequently marketed, to naive consumers, with misleading terminology and nature imagery. Common telltales are;
"energized oxygen",
"trivalent" oxygen,
"activated" oxygen,
"allotropic" oxygen,
"saturated" oxygen,
"super oxygen,"
or "mountain-fresh air."

Yeah, Somewhere, over the rainbow, blue birds fly - there is absolutely nothing natural about accumulated indoor ozone.

Air Purifiers and Ozone

This page discusses the health risks of ozone emitting air purifiers for routine long term household use.

A distinction is drawn between ozone for air purification and oxygenation as a medical therapy.

The two are completely separate subjects, often confused.

While some ionic and all electrostatic air cleaners emit ozone as a byproduct, ozonator purifiers create it by design.

We have all heard of the protective layer of the earth’s atmosphere and how it shields us from harmful ultraviolet radiation.

We can easily follow the suggestion that air purifiers using this "natural" molecule might work safely in our home environment as well.

NOT true.

Ozone is a toxic air pollutant, a strong oxidant, and the main ingredient of ground-level smog.

Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore

The oxygen that we need in the air we breathe has molecules of two oxygen atoms (O2).

Ozone is a colorless gas composed of three oxygen atoms (O3).

Though clear, it is responsible for the faint blue afterglow of electric arc discharge. sylvane bedroom

Airborne O3, created by ultraviolet radiation in the upper atmosphere and by lightning, is almost always present.

It is also created by electric arcs, automobile exhaust, and some industrial processes.

Ozone is a toxic gas with vastly different chemical and biological properties from O2.

It is chemically reactive, and destroys itself by attacking other chemicals.

The problem is it's relatively long survival time (half-life) in air: up to three days! Ozone accumulates in home air.

Many who sell ozone emitters falsely quote the half life in water as evidence of ozones safety in air.

Water purification by ozonation is safe, because O3 decays as quickly as 30 minutes there.

The word "ozone" is derived from the Greek word for "smell" because its odor can be detected at concentrations as low as .0076 parts-per-million (ppm).

Underwriters Laboratory's UL Standard 867 requires household electrostatic air purifier ozone to be no more than .050 ppm.

Governments have jumped on the .050 ppm standard bandwagon.

But when Consumer Reports criticized ozone-emissions from popular air cleaners, many of the worst offenders came in at the .030 to 048 ppm level.

Ironically, these same air cleaners are now "government approved."

There is a consensus among environmental, health and safety agencies that workplace exposure of up to 0.10 ppm is acceptable for an eight-hour period.

The United Kingdom Health & Safety Executive has established an occupational O3 exposure limit of 0.20 ppm for 15 minute periods.

These are industrial exposure standards: want a job as a coal miner, Alaska crab boat crew, or offshore oil-rig diver?

Well, there are frequent openings.

There’s No Place Like Home

In the absence of O3 generators, indoor levels are much lower than found outdoors.

Indoor devices, other than air purifiers, that produce ozone include hair dryers, TVs, laser printers, copy machines, computers, and fax machines.

Substantial amounts come indoors from outdoors.

Many people believe the ozone air purifier ads and like to bask in the “improved” odor.

Visitors complement the home owner on the fresh smell.

A technicolor world of illusion is created as senses are dulled and possibly dangerous odors masked.

Ozones Effects on Health:

Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

The health effects of O3 have been studied extensively.

The bleach hydrogen peroxide is formed when ozone dissolves in water, like when it comes into contact with moisture in your eyes, nose and lungs.

Those who understand the danger of the “fresh” bleach-like smell of O3 can use it properly, for shock treatments in empty rooms.

Short term spikes in outdoor ozone levels during periods of heavy pollution have long been associated with short-term health effects, such as asthma attacks, increased hospitalizations, and cardiovascular deaths.

Concentrations above .080 ppm for eight hours or longer cause coughing, wheezing, and chest pain.

At this level asthma symptoms worsen, the sense of smell decreases, and permanent lung damage is possible.

High concentrations increase sensitivity to pollen, mold, and other allergy triggers. sylvane moon

Recent studies of cumulative effects of more modest ozone exposures have begun to document health concerns.

Now a new study finds chronic low-level ozone exposure to be dangerous to health.

An 18-year study of 448,850 individuals, reported March 12, 2009 in the New England Journal of Medicine, shows that increased risk of death from respiratory illness varies with long term ozone levels.

Researchers studied people over the age of 18 in 96 metropolitan regions beginning in 1982.

The study reported that an increase of .010 parts per million in long term ozone concentrations correlated with a 4% increase in deaths from respiratory illness.

Ozonating Air Purifier: The Great and Powerful Oz

Ozone's best application is in deodorizing hotel rooms.

The O-generator is turned on full power, windows and doors are closed and the room is left empty. When the room is odor free, staff returns, turning off the machine.

Maybe they ventilate all the air. Do they wait until the room is completely aired out before you check in?

Manufacturers of ozone machines claim the air is cleaned and the gases, chemicals, and microorganisms are destroyed in the air.

This air purification is by oxidation, reactions with pollutants which break them down, sometimes into additional pollutants.

Partially oxidized byproducts are created when oxidant air purifiers are used improperly.

Tri-atomic oxygen reacts with lemon and pine-scented cleaning products and air fresheners, creating toxic formaldehyde.

If you still have scents and “air fresheners” anywhere in your home, I urge a hasty visit to the nearest dumpster!

My readers already know that these products are symptom maskers which only make long term solutions harder.

This is a powerful purifying technology, but ozone in air must reach toxic levels 50 times the outdoor air purity standards to be effective against microorganisms.

Ironically, it is NOT the high-quaity, high powered ozone generator that poses the greatest danger to consumers.

High power ozone “Shock Treatments” are toxic to people, pets, and even houseplants.

Very high levels will drive everyone from the home.

But chronic lower levels, as created by many popular home air purifiers, can be tolerated indefinitely.

Honest vendors will properly advise customers on how to use this powerful air purification tool safely.

But many do not, luring consumers into buying a purifier which is dangerous when used continuously on high settings.

Some very popular "air purifiers" are mid powered ozonators and little else. The Ecoquest product line falls in this category.

Ozone covers indoor odors by numbing the sense of smell, as much as by purifying the air. Particulates are not removed from the air, since there are no filters.

The purifier is sometimes sold with an add-on ionizer, further obscuring its true character.

There are many cases where ozone and other oxidants are appropriate remedies - mold and fire damage remediation stand out.

Ozone air purification is very useful for whole-house high-dose mold remediation by professionals or well-informed consumers.

In the case of mold, source removal may be impossible, and less powerful methods may fail.

But please do not use an air purifier with ozone emissions indoors when people or pets are at home.

O3 is useful in unoccupied homes and industrial applications only.

Air purifier emissions should not be added to the long list of routine dangerous household exposures.

Again for emphasis: an ozonator air purifier is a powerful tool, but not for routine everyday use.

The Canadian government, and California, have banned the sale of ozone generators.

Air Purifiers are not Medical Devices

Many people report improved allergy/asthma symptoms when using ozone air purifiers.

Yes, ozone may be useful as an alternative medical therapy.

Ozone defenders may be correct in believing that the government is protecting the pharmaceutical monopoly in persecuting ozone.

But we are talking air purifiers here, not medical uses.

I will not use, or recommend for normal daily use, an air purifier that produces ozone other than trace amounts below .01 parts per million.

Ozone air purifiers, electrostatic air cleaners, and some ionizers may also emit oxides of nitrogen and other impurities which render them unsuited as therapeutic tools.

Air purifiers making more than trace amounts of ozone, above .01 parts per million, are not safe for routine, daily household use.

Former market leaders Ionic Breeze and Oreck, and popular Ecoquest have fallen in popularity as the ozone issue surfaced.

Ozone is safe, and very valuable, when used as prescribed.

“I'll get you, my pretty - and your little dog, too!”

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