Ozone generators are quite the controversial type among other air cleaners. With more people by the day trying to validate the use of ozone generators to clean indoor air, there’s more misinformation on the internet than ever. The conclusions and judgements drawn in such written pieces lack a pragmatic approach besides no scientific data to prove their claims.
Let’s get it out of the way in simple words. Is an ozone generator safe to use for indoor air cleaning? No! an ozone generator is not safe to use indoors. Although you’ll find models that falsely claim to be approved by the federal government for their safety; there isn’t one recognized agency under the federal government that approves the use of ozone generators as air cleaners in occupied spaces. This implies, all claims made by their manufacturers are vague and hold no weight whatsoever. Those catchphrases stating that their models produce ozone within acceptable limits are often times mere marketing gimmicks.
The US environmental protection agency has published a detailed document discussing the potential risks associated with using ozone generators in occupied spaces. To concur, leading health professionals have been refuting the claims regarding their sustainable use for over a century. Other air purifying mechanisms like the ones with a HEPA filter coupled with an activated carbon filter make for a way more reliable and safe choice. Large room HEPA Air purifiers should be your go-to choice if you’ve got a large interconnected space that you’d want free from suspended allergens, pollutants and VOCs.
However, filter based air purifiers too aren’t immune to the double-dealing standards of manufacturers. These too, are swamped with marketing deceits that only benefit the brands. For instance, inferior grade filters are given tricky names like ‘HEPA-type’ or ‘HEPA-like’ to make them appear at par with True HEPA filters. We’ve thoroughly compared their performance standards in our ‘HEPA Type vs. True HEPA‘ article.
Coming back to our subject, let’s take a formal look at why you should never recruit an ozone generator to clean your indoor air.
What is Ozone?
Ozone is essentially a highly unstable molecule with three oxygen atoms that is chemically represented as O3. The high instability of this gaseous molecule makes it readily reactive and hence a potential cleaning agent. Although it may eliminate some toxic gases if introduced in certain amounts in a polluted environment, ozone gas itself may pose several health hazards to children, and people of all ages who’re affected by respiratory disorders like asthma.
The popular phrase “good up high, bad nearby” appropriately describes the nature of the gas. While ozone forms a protective layer in the stratosphere and guards us from the harmful UV rays, it’s not the same guardian-like when it is introduced in the breathable atmosphere. Ground level ozone is linked to trigger a variety of health disorders including asthma attacks and chronic bronchitis.
What is an Ozone Generator?
Ozone generators or ozone machines are appliances that deliberately produce the ozone gas in order for it to react with other toxic gases and convert them into harmless by-products. Due to this virtue, ozone generators are sold as air cleaners for domestic and commercial applications. Disinfection, killing of bacteria, mold, fungi and microbes, removal of toxic gases and unpleasant odors are the specific virtues that are ozone generators are advertised for.
Are Ozone Generators Safe?
Ground level ozone or “bad ozone” is associated with a variety of health problems ranging from mild temporary conditions to aggravation of pre-existing chronic disorders. For instance, short term inhalation of ozone might cause chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and congestion. While sustained exposure to substantially high levels of ozone might worsen cases of emphysema, bronchitis and asthma. Repeated exposure might also cause inflammation in the lungs and other non-reversible respiratory ailments.
Ozone exposure is considered harmful from the very start of the 20th century. Just as readily this unstable gas reacts with other molecules present in the atmosphere, it can interfere with the delicate tissues of your respiratory tract.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has set specific concentration standards to be ensured in the outdoor air for six air pollutants under the Clean Air Act; and ozone is one of them. So, if according to the agency, ozone lies amongst the six most critical air pollutants to be monitored for concentrations in the outdoor air, how’d you label an ozone generator “safe” that is designed to release pure ozone into your room?
The National Institute of occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) proposes that the indoor levels of ozone should not be more than 100 ppb (parts per billion). While the FDA sets a threshold of 50 ppb of ozone to be maintained by indoor appliances.
3 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Using Ozone Generators to Clean Indoor Air
Manufacturers claim that the high instability of ozone renders it to react with gaseous compounds that are often linked to unpleasant odors. Smoke, bacteria, viruses and mold spores are essentially the pollutants that are supposed to be easily taken out by ozone-based air purifiers. The research however does not go hand-in-hand with the claims.
Following are a couple of major reasons besides health concerns as to why you must abandon the use of ozonators disguised as air purifiers.
A research in 1983 revealed that ozone-generating air purifiers were not able to stop bacteria growth in a controlled test environment. The ozone levels to get satisfactory results were simply too high as compared to the safety threshold standards. Other studies have indicated that a concentration of 100 ppb (indoor safety threshold) would take up to as long as 880 years to break down six of the most common volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to half their initial concentrations. Furthermore, at permissible ozone concentrations, it will take more than 4400 years to completely disintegrate formaldehyde (one of the most common VOCs found in indoor air)
Ozone producing machines are incapable of removing suspended particles form the air at all on their own. Suspended solids like dust, dust mites and pollen can only be removed if these are used in conjunction with a filter-based air cleaner. This implies, an ozone machine is an incomplete apparatus on its own besides being inefficient at what these are popular for. Also, as they do not include a physical filter in their design, no ozone generator is assigned a comparable metric like ACH or CADR ratings.
Although you may find some models that’ll say they’re designed to produce ozone within the threshold exposure limits; the truth is you may never precisely gauge the level of exposure in an occupied indoor environment. There are multiple factors that influence the actual ozone concentrations in any closed space. Some of them being adequate/inadequate ventilation of the room, presence/ absence of materials within the room that readily react with the gas, closed/open doors or windows and so on.
An ozone generator cannot eliminate mold spores or bacteria whilst maintaining the safe ozone concentration threshold in indoor applications. Also, it may take months or even years to completely disintegrate the common VOCs found indoors (even at higher concentrations than recommended!).
There are rather safe and effective means of air cleaning available in the market. HEPA filter based air purifiers are one such very efficient type to remove fine pollutants and allergens from the air. Coupled with another odor trapping filter, the conjunction proves to be the safest yet effective air purification apparatus.