Letters: Cleaning the air of ozone-generator hype

Cleaning the air of ozone-generator hype

“My family has had a lot of colds and skin infections this last year. A friend of ours sells ozone units for the home, and I wonder if you think it is a good idea to have them to clean up the air? We hear that ozone is bad, and then we hear that it is good in the home-seems contradictory.”

-I..J., San Antonio, TX

A. Independent testing by Consumer Reports in 1992 revealed that two brands of air cleaners using ionizer/ozone generator technology under a variety of conditions frequently produced ozone levels above the FDA’s limit of 50 ppb (parts per billion). I don’t know if the FDA is being too strict and over-controlling this issue– they usually are–but it makes you want to look further. So I did. Here’s what I found out:

The limitation of 50 ppb is easily exceeded by individual users because the levels of ozone generated from home-use devices are influenced by many factors that aren’t easily controlled, such as the power setting, room sizes, and ventilation rate.

Besides, although ozone-generating machines are promoted as air cleaners, independent studies have shown that the machines do not effectively destroy microbes, remove odor sources, or reduce indoor pollutants sufficiently to provide any health benefits.

Let’s look a little closer at the possible medical consequences of ozonizing yourself and your family members.

Ozone is toxic to humans at low ambient air concentrations. Exposure to ozone can induce cough and chest pain on deep inhalation. It can also initiate eye, throat, and nose irritation and increased sensitivity to airborne allergens and irritants. Long-term exposure to high levels of ozone may result in permanent lung damage. There are other potential problems with ozone generators, especially in your kitchen, since ozone can react with volatile organic compounds, such as lingering cooking odors in the air, to produce harmful byproducts like formaldehyde.

Recommendations to avoid the use of ozone generating devices in inhabited spaces due to health-related concerns have been issued by several states, including North Carolina, Minnesota, Florida, and California.

Action to take:

Ozone is a potent lung irritant that can cause respiratory distress. Levels of ozone that clean air effectively are unsafe for humans.

There is an inexpensive, effective, and safe method for cleaning the air in your home: Fluorescent bulbs heavy in UV-C (the bactericidal wave lengths). Place one bulb in the corner of the ceiling in each room of your home and cover it to prevent eye exposure. Turning on the light will give you pathogen-free air in a matter of minutes. It’s as simple as that. For more information, read my book Into the Light available from: www.rhinopublish.com.

Filters or electrostatic precipitators are OK for “scrubbing” your indoor air and are more effective than ozone generating devices–but nothing beats UV-C fluorescent light.


“Ozone Generators-Warning-Not For Occupied Spaces,” State of Alaska Epidemiology Bulletin (No. 36), 9/8/97