Is Ozone Safe in Enclosed Spaces?
It may be confusing to see the word ozone associated with air purification, and for there to be varying recommendations and verdicts at that. Usually, the discussion is about whether ozone is safe to use or not.
The gist is, manufacturers and sellers of ozone generators have claimed that this gas can improve air quality indoors as long as it is kept under a certain limit. Meanwhile, various scientific materials have begun to show that it might be unsafe to inhale it at all in indoor spaces.
Let’s discuss all of this further and break down the specifics, starting with the simple question:
What exactly is ozone anyway?
To clear things up, the ozone we’re talking about is not the same one you find in the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s UV rays. The ozone here on earth is produced by various chemicals, like vehicle and factory emissions, upon interacting with sunlight. It is considered an air pollutant by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which has published scientific documents that list the risks and dangers of ozone gas.
On a chemical level, ozone contains three oxygen atoms, which gives it its name O3. Meanwhile, the air we breathe, oxygen, is O2. Notice the extra oxygen atom, which essentially makes ozone a more reactive gas. This is due to the extra oxygen’s ability to alter the chemical composition of substances it comes into contact with. And yes, this means ozone can affect cells in our body when absorbed by our system.
Still, ozone has many functions that led to its use for air purification. It would never have begun being used that way for no reason, after all!
How and why ozone can be used?
As previously mentioned, ozone is excellent at reacting with other substances, and this includes eliminating any strong smell or chemical in the air. It also has a natural crisp scent, much like an air freshener. Because of these two qualities, it has often been chosen for air purification.
Ozone generators or air purifiers can produce ozone onsite using technology that recreates the natural occurrence of ozone production. What these machines do is take the oxygen from the air and infuse it with an electric charge to reform it into O3, or ozone. In fact, this is why there’s a crisp scent in places where lightning has just struck - it’s the electric charge producing ozone from the surrounding oxygen.
In the case of ozone generators, when the newly-formed O3 is released out into the air, it’s able to hit molecules that may cause the smell. Smoke or mold, for example, are pollutants that ozone’s third oxygen molecule can attach to and eliminate. The cell walls of such germs, bacteria, fungus, and other odor-causing pollutants are susceptible to being destroyed.
Once that’s done, the O3 becomes O2 because of the elimination process that occurred, which reverts the ozone to oxygen. This elimination is how ozone generators remove smell and clean indoor pollutants, making them a practical choice for hotels, businesses, and hospitals.
Now that we’ve laid it all out, it’s time to decide just what we should do with ozone generators. For sure, continuous exposure to ozone has proved to be harmful, making it dangerous to use in homes where regulation isn’t as strict.
Still, it’s a logical choice for properties like big stores, hotels, and hospitals. Despite the risks, the ability to clean and sanitize is a plus. The downside would be the regulations that ban 24/7 use of ozone air purifiers, but this just entails cautious and limited use that professionals must adhere to.
In short, ozone has been used for decades in medical facilities around the globe, as a way of eliminating viruses and harmful bacteria. The key to using ozone safely and responsibly is containment. Be aware of the risks before choosing an ozone product and comply with the user guidelines, ensuring safety first.