Are ozone generators bad for your health?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ozone generators have become more widely used as air-cleaning devices in occupied spaces. When exposed to specific concentrations of ozone for extended periods, ozone can be harmful to human health. Because …

are ozone generators bad for your health

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, ozone generators have become more widely used as air-cleaning devices in occupied spaces. When exposed to specific concentrations of ozone for extended periods, ozone can be harmful to human health. Because ozone generators emit unsafe levels of ozone, they must be operated with great caution when used for air cleaning.

The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has determined that exposure to ozone at a concentration greater than 0.2 parts per million (ppm) over an 8-hour period is hazardous to human health.

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends that workers not be exposed to ozone at concentrations above 0.1 ppm for 4 hours or longer.

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Are ozone generators bad for your health?

Ozone generators are designed to produce high concentrations of ozone gas. Ozone is a colorless gas that smells like rotten eggs. It is produced by passing oxygen through a corona discharge device. This process generates a mixture of gases including oxygen, nitrogen, argon, carbon dioxide, water vapor, and trace amounts of other chemicals.

Ozone Generators: What Are They?

Using Ozone Generators, airborne contaminants are reduced by the production of Ozone (O3). Due to its highly reactive composition of three oxygen atoms, ozone is capable of attaching to airborne organic contaminants and oxidizing and eliminating them. Ozone comes in both good and bad forms:

Between 6 and 30 miles above the Earth’s surface, stratospheric ozone, or “good ozone,” exists in the atmosphere. Sunlight is shielded from harmful UV rays by the ozone layer. The pollutant “bad ozone” at ground level is harmful to our health. “Bad ozone” is typically produced by ozone generators.

How Does an Ozone Generator Work?

An ozone generator works by creating a strong electric field between two electrodes. A small amount of oxygen is introduced into this area where it is ionized.

The positive ions are attracted to the negative electrode while the electrons flow toward the positive electrode. As these electrons collide with the oxygen molecules, they release energy which causes the oxygen molecule to split into two oxygen atoms. These newly formed oxygen atoms combine with each other to form ozone.

What are the harmful effects of ozone?

The same chemical properties that allow high concentrations of ozone to react with organic materials outside the body also allow it to react with similar organic materials within the body, which may have harmful health effects. A person’s lungs can be damaged by inhaling ozone.

Chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and throat irritation can occur at relatively low levels. In addition to aggravating chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma, ozone may also compromise the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections. The susceptibility of people to ozone varies widely.

When exposed to ozone, healthy people and those with respiratory problems can experience breathing problems. The amount of ozone inhaled during exercise increases due to the greater amount of ozone being inhaled. Short-term exposure to low levels of ozone can lead to recovery from adverse health effects, but high levels and longer exposures may cause more damage and less certainty of recovery (US EPA, 1996a, 1996b).

Ozone is often misrepresented by manufacturers and vendors of ozone devices. Oxygen energized by ozone is often referred to as “pure air” or “energized oxygen.” Compared to oxygen, ozone has vastly different chemical and toxicological properties. Ozone exposure has been regulated by several federal agencies. A summary of these exposure limits can be found in Table.

Health EffectsRisk FactorsHealth Standards*
Experience the following risks:

Functioning of the lungs is reduced

Asthma symptoms are aggravated

Irritation and coughing of the throat

Breathing problems and chest pain

Lung tissue inflammation

Respiratory infections are more likely to occur.
The following factors are expected to increase risk and severity of health effects:

Concentration of ozone in the air increases

Several health effects are associated with a longer duration of exposure

Breathing activities (e.g., exercise) that increase breathing rate

The presence of certain preexisting lung diseases (e.g., asthma)
Ozone output from indoor medical devices must not exceed 0.05 parts per million (ppm) according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

OSHA requires that workers not be exposed to an average concentration of more than 0.10 parts per million for eight hours.

An upper limit of 0.10 ppm is recommended by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

Ozone concentrations in the outdoors are limited to 0.08 parts per million (ppm) by the EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard

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Is There Such a Thing as “Good Ozone” and “Bad Ozone”?

Yes, there is such a thing as good ozone and bad ozone. Most ozone generators produce ozone that contains impurities such as nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and volatile organic compounds.

However, some ozone generators produce ozone that is purer than ambient air. This type of ozone is called “activated” or “purified” ozone. Activated ozone is used in hospitals and other settings where its use is medically indicated. It is also used in industrial applications such as cleaning semiconductors and metals.

What Are Some Common Uses of Ozone?

Activated ozone is commonly used in medicine and dentistry. It is used to disinfect wounds, sterilize surgical instruments, deodorize hospital rooms, decontaminate water systems, and purify drinking water.

Activated ozone is also used to cleanse air prior to surgery, reduce odors associated with food preparation, remove stains on clothing, eliminate unpleasant smells in homes and offices, kill bacteria and viruses, and treat skin conditions.

Activated ozone is available in both liquid and dry forms. Liquid activated ozone is typically applied using a sprayer or atomizer. Dry activated ozone is typically stored in cartridges or pads and then placed into a device that produces ozone.

Are There Any Other Ways to Generate Pure Ozone?

There are many ways to generate ozone. The most common way is through ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light causes atmospheric oxygen molecules to split apart, creating free radicals that combine with pollutants to form ozone. Another method involves passing electrical current through oxygen gas. When this occurs, electrons jump between adjacent atoms, causing them to become unstable and release energy. This process creates ozone.

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Finding the Right Air Cleaner for Your Business

Air cleaners are often overlooked until they become clogged and start causing problems. However, air cleaning systems are great tools for keeping your business clean and safe. If you have been searching for the right air cleaner for your business, here are some tips to help guide you.

1. Size Matters

The size of the air cleaner should depend on how much space you have in your office or workspace. Smaller units tend to work well if you only need to keep the area around your desk clear of pollen and other particles. Larger units are ideal for larger spaces where you may want to filter out larger particles and allergens.

2. Efficiency

You want to make sure that you get the best efficiency possible from your unit. There are many different types of air cleaners, including HEPA filters, ULPA filters, and electrostatic precipitators (ESP). Each type works differently and offers its own unique advantages. You want to find a system that fits your budget and meets your specific needs.

3. Cost

If you are looking for a cheap option, you might consider purchasing a basic model. These models are designed to provide enough filtration to meet the minimum standards set by OSHA. However, these units do not offer any additional features that could improve their effectiveness. On the other hand, higher-end units are designed to give you the best performance at a reasonable price.

4. Filtering Options

There are two primary options for filtering air—HEPA filters and ULPA filters. Both are effective methods of removing particulate matter from the air. HEPA filters remove 99.97% of airborne particles, while ULPA filters allow you to remove particles down to 0.03 microns. Depending on what kind of particles you are trying to remove, you may choose between either option.

5. Maintenance

It is important to maintain your air cleaner regularly. When you purchase a unit, you should receive instructions on how to properly use and care for it. Make sure that you follow those guidelines carefully. Otherwise, you risk damaging your unit and losing its effectiveness.

What the EPA thinks about air cleaners that generate ozone

The health effects of air cleaners such as ozone generators and ionizers, as well as whether direct or indirect ozone output can be harmful, are hotly debated. Since there is a lot of material out there – mostly produced by manufacturers – claiming ozone is not necessarily harmful, the EPA took this to heart. 

According to the EPA’s study, ozone generators produce the following types of ozone:

To be effective, ozone needs to undergo a chemical reaction that takes months or years. The usefulness of an ozone generator is questionable unless it is running continuously in a building without residents. 

 As soon as the ozone reacts, there is a chance that irritating products will be produced. The presence of ozone was reduced in a study in which ozone was mixed with some chemicals in a new carpet, but aldehydes were produced that can be toxic.

 Air particles are not removed from the air by ozone, but by ionizers. In spite of this, ionizers do not remove particles such as smoke, pollen, and mold as well as HEPA filters (although they may latch onto viruses and pathogens). 

A healthy level of ozone generation does not reduce odors when used at a healthy level. 

How effective are ozone generators at controlling indoor air pollution?

There is little evidence that ozone can remove indoor air contaminants at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards.

By producing a chemical reaction whose only by-products are carbon dioxide, oxygen, and water, ozone is claimed to render almost any chemical contaminant harmless. There is a misconception here.

According to scientific research, the reaction process with ozone can take months or years for many chemicals commonly found in indoor environments (Boeniger, 1995). As a practical matter, ozone does not react with these chemicals at all.

According to some vendors, ozone generators are not effective in removing carbon monoxide (Salls, 1927; Shaughnessy et al., 1994) or formaldehyde (Esswein and Boeniger, 1994).

A second disadvantage is that many of the chemicals with which ozone readily reacts can produce harmful or irritating byproducts (Weschler et al., 1992a, 1992b, 1996; Zhang and Lioy, 1994). In a laboratory experiment, mixing ozone with new carpet chemicals reduced many of the chemicals, including those that cause new carpet odors.

As a result of the reaction, Aldehydes were produced and the total concentration of organic chemicals in the air grew rather than decreased after the introduction of ozone (Weschler, et. al., 1992b).

The presence of aldehydes and formic acid inside the home may irritate the lungs if concentrated enough (Zhang and Lioy, 1994). Ozone’s reactions with other chemicals can generate by-products that are very reactive and may produce irritating or corrosive by-products (Weschler and Shields, 1996, 1997a, 1997b). In the presence of ozone, indoor chemicals undergo a series of complex chemical reactions, making further research necessary to better understand the interactions.

Furthermore, ozone does not remove particles (such as dust and pollen) from the air, including those that cause allergies. The same unit can also include an “ionizer” or “ion generator” in some ozone generators.

A device that disperses negatively (and/or positively) charged ions into the air is an ionizer. By attaching negative (or positive) charges to particles in the air, these ions cause them to attach to nearby surfaces, such as walls and furniture, or to attach to one another and settle out.

Recent experiments have shown that ionizers are less effective than high efficiency particle filters or electrostatic precipitators at removing dust, tobacco smoke, pollen, or fungal spores. Pierce, et al., 1996; Shaughnessy and coauthors, 1994). The effectiveness of particle air cleaners, such as electrostatic precipitators, ion generators, or pleated filters, varies widely based on other experiments (U.S. EPA, 1995).

Several studies have demonstrated that ozone is not effective at removing many odor-causing chemicals at concentrations below public health standards.

Ozone did not reduce formaldehyde concentrations in an experiment designed to simulate the conditions in an embalming studio, where formaldehyde is the main odor producer (Esswein and Boeniger, 1994). According to Witheridge and Yaglou (1939), ozone is able to mask body odor, but not remove it (Witheridge and Yaglou, 1939). According to ASHRAE (1989), ozone is not useful for removing odors from building ventilation systems.

It is plausible that some odorous chemicals will react with ozone although there are few scientific studies supporting that claim. Some experiments have shown that ozone reacts readily with certain chemicals, including some that contribute to the smell of new carpets (Weschler, 1992b; Zhang and Lioy, 1994). In addition to acrolein, ozone is also believed to react with other odorous and irritating chemicals in secondhand tobacco smoke (US EPA, 1995).

It is not effective at removing viruses, bacteria, mold, or other biological pollutants from indoor air at concentrations that do not exceed public health standards.

There is some evidence that low levels of ozone may reduce airborne concentrations and inhibit the growth of some biological organisms, but this would require ozone concentrations between five and ten times higher than public health standards allow to decontaminate the air sufficiently to prevent survival and regeneration of the organisms once the ozone is removed (Dyas, et al., 1983; Foarde et al., 1997).

Biological contaminants embedded in porous materials like duct lining and ceiling tiles may not be affected by ozone even at high concentrations (Foarde et al, 1997). As a result, while ozone produced by ozone generators may inhibit the growth of some biological agents, it is unlikely to fully decontaminate the air unless concentrations are high enough to pose a health risk to people. Contaminants embedded in porous materials may not be affected at all by high levels of ozone.

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Where Can I Buy an Ozone Generator?

There are many places to buy an ozone generator online. Many retailers offer different models and sizes. Prices vary widely depending on the model purchased.

The difference between an ozone generator and an ionizer

There is a tendency to lump ozone generators with ionizers. While ionizers are also air cleaners, they work by electrically stimulating ions in the air, which latch onto air particles and are collected. In addition to removing pathogens and viruses, ionizers do not remove odors or volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Ionizers won’t work if you need to remove odors or particles that contain VOCs, such as smoke, pet odors, or mold. 

Are Ozone Generators Worth It?

Ozone generators are relatively inexpensive compared to traditional air filters. They cost about $100-$200 but will last several years before needing replacement. In contrast, traditional filters must be replaced every year or two. Ozone generators are easy to install and maintain. They require no electricity and can be operated from any power outlet. They are also quiet when operating. Ozone generators have been shown to improve indoor air quality. They may help prevent asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. They may even protect against cancer.

Where Can I Buy an Ozone Generator?

There are many places to buy an ozone generator online. Many retailers offer different models and sizes. Prices vary widely depending on the model purchased.

Can I Use My Own Ozone Generator?

You can purchase an ozone generator and use it yourself. But you should only do so if you know how to operate it safely. You should never expose yourself or others to ozone unless you are trained and certified to do so. If you don’t know what you’re doing, contact a professional who does.

How safe are ozone generators?

No, unfortunately. Numerous scientific studies have shown that these devices can be harmful to health and ineffective at removing airborne contaminants, according to the EPA. In occupied spaces, ozone generators have not been approved by federal agencies.


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