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Ozone Air Purifiers

Since we are focusing on Indoor Air Quality this month, it’s time to revisit the debate on ozone generating air purifiers. Some manufacturers swear by them while some detest their existence.

First things first: Ozone (O3) is sometimes called ‘activated oxygen’ and consists of three oxygen atoms. Di-oxygen (O2) is the stuff we normally breathe and consists of two oxygen atoms.

Ozone is a sterilant whose third atom attacks micro-organisms. During this process the bad critters are killed and the extra atom of oxygen is destroyed by oxidation and our ozone is converted to good old breathable O2.

So far, so good.

Then what’s the problem with this process? Well, ozone itself is considered a toxic gas and if that third atom is not consumed and thus transformed to O2, it remains over on the dark side, contributing to an ever growing list of health risks.
How would this happen using it as an air purifier? One scenario is that your home is too clean! Keep in mind that the ozone needs to go to battle with bacteria, viruses and odors in order to be converted to oxygen. The leftover ozone then rises to levels believed to be harmful.

Another problem I see is in the manner in which many of these products are sized. Meaning not sized very precisely.
For example, you purchase an ozone generating air purifier advertised as treating “up to 3,000 square feet”. What if your home is only 1,500 square feet? That’s right, elevated ozone levels! I’ve been in homes where I could smell it, which indicates it is at several times what it should be, measured in parts per million.

The bottom line is that indoor air quality products require research on the side of the consumer to find out what’s right for you. Consulting an expert in the area instead of making an uninformed internet purchase is a great start. Some of the products often labeled as bad are simply misapplied and some of the “good” products are not very effective for many households.