What's wrong with ozone?



Ozone Is Toxic!


Quote from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

"When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs. Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and, throat irritation. Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. People vary widely in their susceptibility to ozone. Healthy people, as well as those with respiratory difficulty, can experience breathing problems when exposed to ozone. Exercise during exposure to ozone causes a greater amount of ozone to be inhaled, and increases the risk of harmful respiratory effects. Recovery from the harmful effects can occur following short-term exposure to low levels of ozone, but health effects may become more damaging and recovery less certain at higher levels or from longer exposures (US EPA, 1996a, 1996b). Manufacturers and vendors of ozone devices often use misleading terms to describe ozone. Terms such as "energized oxygen" or "pure air" suggest that ozone is a healthy kind of oxygen. Ozone is a toxic gas with vastly different chemical and toxicological properties from oxygen. Several federal agencies have established health standards or recommendations to limit human exposure to ozone."


It's even taught in schools!

Extract from a school chemistry revision book:

OZONE: It is a blue gas - a very powerful oxidizing agent and extremely poisonous. It occupies a very small part of the atmosphere, mainly located about 30 km above the surface - the ozone layer. Here it prevents most of the ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth where it could do great damage.


What actually is ozone?

Quite simply, ozone is a very active form of oxygen, consisting of three atoms instead of the normal two.

Although gases are made up of individual atoms they are at their most stable when the atoms cling together in pairs (called molecules). So, for example, we would describe hydrogen as H2 and oxygen as O2.

Under certain conditions these pairs of atoms can become separated. It takes quite a lot of energy to do this and usually happens when oxygen is subjected to high voltage electricity or high energy ultra violet light (UVC).

In nature, this would be by the energy of lightning or sunlight

....this is how the ozone layer is formed.
Intense ultra violet light from the sun hits the upper atmosphere. When the UV rays collide with oxygen they split the molecule into its two separate atoms. These atoms would dearly like to re-combine but have been driven apart by the impact. The next best thing they can do is to tag on to a nearby "normal" oxygen molecule which now becomes O3  instead of the usual O2. This new triple-atom combination is called ozone.

The triple bond of ozone is quite weak and one atom needs to be shed to make it stable again. So when it passes near another single oxygen atom or another (triple atomed) ozone molecule, the surplus (loose) atoms will break away and re-combine into oxygen pairs.

All the time the sun shines on the upper atmosphere, a churning mass of billions of these reactions is happening. We call this the Ozone layer and the energy absorbed by it all, reduces the intensity of the UV light to a level that life on the Earth below can tolerate.
In the upper atmosphere, there are very few other substances to react with, so the oxygen molecules just keep breaking down and re-combining with themselves (the exception being those aerosol pollutants that bind with the oxygen and actually break the cycle - thus causing the "hole" in the ozone layer).

Things are quite different at ground level.




It is often thought, because the ozone layer is beneficial to us, that ozone itself is a natural, healthy substance. This certainly is not the case.



Normal oxygen is itself a very reactive gas which easily combines with other substances. It supports combustion and oxidises (or "breaks down") many materials. For example when oxygen combines with iron, then rust (iron oxide) is formed. And the green tarnish on copper is copper oxide. Cooking oil goes rancid and beer and wine go "vinegary" when oxidised.
But ozone is far more reactive than oxygen. Because the third oxygen atom is so loosely bonded, it takes far less persuasion to break away and bind with other substances so it has far greater oxidising power.

The bleach Hydrogen Peroxide is formed when ozone dissolves in water. And this is what happens when it comes into contact with moisture in your eyes, nose and lungs. Ozone can also perish rubber and some plastics.

If you've worked in an office, you'll almost certainly recognise the smell of ozone - it's that smell that comes out of the photocopier and laser printer. That's because they use static electricity to transfer the toner powder into an image on paper. And anything that uses high voltages in this way has a tendancy to produce ozone.

Health and Safety standards dictate that the levels must be kept very low, so office equipment is protected by special ozone filters. If these filters deteriorate and there is insufficient ventilation, you soon find your eyes starting to sting and your nose and throat become irritated.

When building high voltage equipment it's very easy to generate ozone - almost as a by-product. It is actually much harder design equipment that doesn't produce it. Maybe that's why many ionizer manufacturers try to sell ozone as if it were somehow beneficial. It is important to be aware that a badly designed ionizer may produce ozone, and with it nitrous oxide. The WHO (World Health Authority) guidelines, say that the maximum acceptable level of ozone is 0.1ppm (parts per million). So when purchasing, make sure it is from a reputable company. (We have tested some "cheap" models in the past, and they really are unpleasant to use).

Also, the ionizer's emitter needles can deteriorate severely in the presence of ozone. In other words, if the ionizer generates ozone, it will need to have it's needles replaced quite often. Our Astrid ionizers are specifically designed NOT to generate ozone, so our needles do not degrade in this way and can be fitted permanently. Because of this we are able to align them more accurately than if they were of a "plug in" type, giving more efficient ion production.




Watch out for the words "natural de-odouriser" or "nature's de-odouriser" when buying an ionizer -- It usually means ozone!!



But What About All The Claims Made Of Ozone Generators? - Yes, ozone does kill mould and bacteria - by oxidising them. And it does a very good job. But it also oxidises and damages the cells in your body! Ozone generators are used industrially to fumigate buildings but all living things must be kept well away from the area.

Being an irritant of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs, ozone is known to particularly affect asthmatics and people with respiratory problems (that's why there are public health warnings issued on the radio and TV when the atmospheric levels begin to rise). Sadly these are often the very people being sold ozone generaters to ease their problems.


Real life experiences:

This is part of a public discussion taken from the newsgroup: alt.support.asthma

Hello All, I've read in this group that ozone machines are bad news. A friend of mine is really into them and has them all over his house. When I go there it smells like bleach or something. I've never had an asthma reaction over there. But then, I haven't stayed terribly long. Just long enough to fix his computer and then go on my merry way. Penny for your thoughts....

Your friend sounds like my friend, 4 years ago. Spending too much time there landed me in ER for over 12 hours, in acute pain. Bunch of tests to rule out anything else, no relief for the pain, until they could get the testing done. Non-infectious pleurisy. It took two repeat episodes (in ensuing months) for me to figure out that it was his ozone machine. He has since gotten rid of it.


Check out some of these links we've found:

(The links will open in a new window. Just close the window to return to this page.)

Environmental Protection Agency (America)
Ozone Generators that are Sold as Air Cleaners
Health and Environmental Impacts of Ground-level Ozone

American Lung Association
Ozone Generating Air Cleaners

Health Canada
OZONE GENERATORS MAY BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH
Warning about air cleaners designed to intentionally generate ozone
Information - List of Ozone Generators