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Draeger gas pum and test tube for ozone (C) D FriedmanOzone & Ozone Gas Air Cleaners & Air Purifiers

  • OZONE AIR PURIFIER WARNINGS - CONTENTS: Are Ozone-Based Air Purifiers or Air Cleaners Effective, Safe, Recommended? No, not according to independent, expert, and government sources. So what are the best ways to get rid of an indoor odor or airborne particle contaminant> Ozone-generating Air Cleaners are NOT RECOMMENDED to Purify Indoor Air and NOT RECOMMENDED as a Mold Treatment. Ozone-generating Air Cleaners Used to Remove Odors May Produce Excessive levels of Ozone Gas and May Cause Problematic Chemical Reactions with Other Building Contents
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about who does or does not recommend use of ozone air purifiers and air cleaners
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Ozone generators & Ozone based air purifiers & air cleaners:

Do ozone generators and air purifiers work? Are ozone generators, mold treatments, deodorizers, and air purifiers recommended? As reported by the U.S. EPA, ozone generators that are sold as air cleaners intentionally produce the gas ozone.

Often the vendors of ozone generators make statements and distribute material that lead the public to believe that these devices are always safe and effective in controlling indoor air pollution. Page to photo: one of our ozone gas detector test instruments using a Draeger bellows pump and a colorimetric gas sampling tube.



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Are Ozone-Based Air Purifiers or Air Cleaners Effective, Safe, Recommended?

Article Contents

For almost a century, health professionals have refuted these claims (Sawyer, et. al 1913; Salls, 1927; Boeniger, 1995; American Lung Association, 1997; Al-Ahmady, 1997). The purpose of this document is to provide accurate information regarding the use of ozone-generating devices in indoor occupied spaces. This information is based on the most credible scientific evidence currently available.

In inspecting and testing many buildings we often encounter both owners and consultants who try to solve an existing problem by treating the symptom (for example an odor) rather than by treating the cause (a dead animal, for example, or insufficient fresh air intake, for another example).

The best ways to get rid of an indoor odor or airborne particle contaminant are:

  1. Find and remove the odor source or problem particle source (such as dust, pet allergens, mold).
  2. Make sure there is adequate fresh air intake for the building
  3. Use high quality air filtration to reduce the level of circulating dust indoors.

The proper way to get rid of an indoor mold problem is to remove the problem mold and correct the conditions that caused it to grow. Attempts to rely on odor killers, mold killers, deodorants, or ozone generators are futile and may be harmful. Details follow.

Ozone-generating Air Cleaners are NOT RECOMMENDED to Purify Indoor Air and NOT RECOMMENDED as a Mold Treatment

Ozone Indoors - Bottom line: 

At airborne concentrations of ozone which are safe, that is, are unlikely to be a hazard to humans, ozone is ineffective at removing contaminants. At high levels in indoor air, ozone is likely to be hazardous to building occupants, and in our direct experience its use at high levels indoors can lead to surprise chemical reactions and oxidations of other building materials that in turn lead to new indoor odor, VOC, and other problems.

Notice: our discussion of the ineffectiveness of ozone as an indoor air cleaner and the potential hazards of indoor use of ozone for deodorizing, cleaning, or killing mold, is focused on the issues surrounding ozone and equipment that produces it indoors. AHAM , The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers, certifies the effectiveness of various types of portable air cleaners.

Some vendors suggest that ozone-generating devices have been approved by the federal government for use in occupied spaces. This is not the case.

Watch out: The U.S. EPA emphasizes in its own publications that

NO agency of the federal government has approved these [ozone generating] devices for use in occupied spaces.

Because of these claims, and because ozone can cause health problems at high concentrations, several federal government agencies have worked in consultation with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to produce this public information document.

How is Indoor Ozone Gas Harmful to People

The same chemical properties that allow high concentrations of ozone to react with organic material outside the body give it the ability to react with similar organic material that makes up the body, and potentially cause harmful health consequences. When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs (see - "Ozone and Your Health" - www.epa.gov/airnow/brochure.html ). 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.

Ozone-generating Air Cleaners Used to Remove Odors May Produce Excessive levels of Ozone Gas and May Cause Problematic Chemical Reactions with Other Building Contents

Ozone is a highly toxic gas but even highly toxic substances can be encountered safely. The main concern with this material is that concentrations to which people are exposed do not average more than 0.1 ppm over an 8-hr day, and do not exceed that value by more than a factor of 2 or 3 during the exposure." [1]

While expert use of ozone can be successful in some deodorizing applications, we have received primarily complaints from people who tried using ozone to get rid of indoor odors only to find that they had made things worse.

Question on Getting Rid of New Smells After Using an Ozone Generator Indoors:

I was hoping that you may have some suggestions on how to rid a house of the left over odor or chemicals, from using an ozone generator.

It's a long story, but I used a high powered ozone generator in my house, to get rid of skunk smell. Now I can't get rid of the left over nitric oxide, or whatever odor or gases, that linger in my house. I have been leaving the windows open every day, with running the heat on high (85 degrees) at night, to try to force off-gas the odors/gases.

All I can find is where others have had the same thing happen, and they ended up having to leave their homes. we are still hoping I can find a way to rid my house of the problem.
- Nadine -

Answer:

We have investigated a number of post-ozone treatment complaints and have been able to resolve the problem successfully, but not always at low cost. Ozone gas itself is very reactive - an oxidant. It does not stay around long after it has been generated in a building unless there is a continuing source such as an ozone generator still at work.

But when high levels of ozone have been produced in an enclosed space, we find that other materials in the space become partly oxidized, subsequently giving off horrible, often chemical-like odors. We have traced odors to painted surfaces, furniture, upholstery, curtains, carpeting, carpet padding, and other materials.

Try making a smell-patch test - see SMELL PATCH TEST to FIND ODOR SOURCE to determine just which building component has been oxidized. Following this procedure we can often narrow down the source of post-ozone-treatment smells to a single material that can then be removed or remedied, such as carpet padding or a specific piece of furniture. More about tracking down odors in buildings is at ODORS, Smells, Gases in Buildings-Diagnosis & Cure.

Ozone-Generating Air Cleaners and Indoor Air Chemistry

The following data is obtained from "Ozone-Generating Air Cleaners and Indoor Air Chemistry" , a U.S. EPA Document

Ozone-generating air cleaners are marketed to homeowners as well as business establishments ostensibly to remove odors and other contaminants from indoor air. IEMB has characterized ozone and oxides of nitrogen (NOx) emissions from these devices in full-scale environmental chamber tests and characterized performance in a research test house.

To date, findings demonstrate that, for those models tested, ozone generation rates are generally within the ranges stated by the manufacturers and some models have the capacity to generate ozone concentrations of 200 parts per billion (ppb) in the test house, well above EPA's 8-hour ambient ozone standard of 80 ppb.

Additionally, ozone and nitrogen dioxide emission rates increase with decreasing relative humidity, and the relationship between ozone emission rate and NOx generation rate varies between different models of different manufacturers.

Ozone-generating air cleaners equipped with an ozone sensor/controller designed to prevent activation of the ozone generator at concentrations above 50 ppb performed erratically in full-scale chamber tests but appeared to perform as designed in limited short-term (24 h) tests in a research test house.

We [the U.S. EPA] conclude that more extensive testing is needed to characterize the sensor/controller. However, tests in the research test house clearly demonstrate that these devices are capable of producing ozone concentrations well above those of accepted health guidelines.

IEMB is currently investigating the impact of ozone generators on concentrations of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in indoor environments. These experiments investigate the chemical reactions that take place when an ozone-generating air cleaner is operated in the presence of emissions from a typical source of VOCs, such as an air freshener or cleaning product.

Results demonstrate that the ozone-generating air cleaners have little impact on airborne concentrations of solvents used in consumer products, but do impact concentrations of many of the fragrance compounds emitted by this type of product.

Reaction products include formaldehyde and other oxygenated organics. The interaction between ozone and some of the product emissions, such as terpenes, triggers formation of ultra fine particles. IEMB is currently refining analytical approaches to better characterize the "soup" of particles and gases that results from operation of these devices in the presence of VOCs.

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