Ozone generators intentionally create ozone and are advertised as effective in controlling particulate matter in your environment. But do they work?
And more importantly, are they safe?
This article will examine what ozone machines are, how they work and the potential health dangers.
What does an ozone generator do?
In a nutshell, ozone generators work by converting oxygen into ozone. They do this by adding energy to oxygen molecules. This process causes the molecules to break apart, temporarily joining up with other molecules in your environment.
Manufacturers of ozone generators claim that the ozone produced can purify the air and remove:
- Airborne particles
Ambient air is pulled into the ozone generator. Then, either a corona mechanism creates a corona discharge— splitting the atoms— or a UV bulb hits the oxygen atoms, forcing them to split and reform. This produces O3 (ozone).
How effective are ozone generators?
While manufacturers may claim that ozone generators can improve air quality, few scientific studies support these claims. Overall, there is a lack of evidence that ozone generators are particularly effective, especially at the ozone levels they can produce.
This 1983 study from Queen Elizabeth Hospital found that an ozone device could not suppress fungal or bacterial growth in a hospital room over six hours.
In 1995, a research study was conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division, analyzing how long and at what concentration ozone could effectively remove VOCs from the environment. The results found that it took nearly a millennium to break down less than half of the pollutants tested to their half-lives.
That being said, the University of California found that when it comes to removing odors in your environment, there are mixed results.
You’ll likely have heard of ozone in relation to the Earth’s stratosphere. This ozone protects us from the sun’s UV rays and is considered “good” ozone. However, there is also “bad” ozone. Ozone pollution—otherwise known as smog—can now be found in our troposphere and poses a severe health risk. According to the EPA, ozone can reach exceptionally high and unhealthy levels during sunny and hot days.
Whether produced naturally or with a machine, ozone affects our lungs and can lead to many health problems.
Health problems caused by ozone include:
- A sore, scratchy throat and persistent cough
- Inflammation of the airways
- Aggravation of conditions such as asthma, chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
Those with preexisting lung conditions (such as asthma), older folks and children are particularly at risk. Ozone is also known to deaden or weaken our sense of smell.
In addition to the personal health effects, ozone pollution can also damage our environment and have a negative effect on plants and building materials in your home.
When does it make sense to use an ozone generator?
It might be a good solution if you’re a hotel owner and want to convert some rooms from smoking to non-smoking.
But, there are several much safer and more effective ways to clean the air at home than using a device that generates ozone. Simply remove the sources of odors or pollutants for a start. Then, try ventilating the area to allow for better air circulation in your home.
An air purifier will be more than enough for ongoing air quality issues. Air purifiers that utilize HEPA filters are the most efficient at removing pollutants, while activated carbon filters will take care of VOCs quickly and safely.
The best air purifiers combine both HEPA and activated carbon filters:
Manufacturers of ozone generators make all sorts of claims. But we have looked at this carefully and found that the products are dangerous and often don’t even work as the makers claim.
Moreover, ozone is a very problematic gas for several reasons and should be avoided when looking for an air purifier for the home.
Do you want to learn more about ozone? Read our article all about what ozone really is here.
- Air And Waste Management Association. (2006). Quantification of Ozone Levels in Indoor Environments Generated by Ionization and Ozonolysis Air Purifiers. aerosol.chem.uci.edu
- Centers For Disease Control And Prevention. (1995). Use OF Ozone Generating Devices To Improve Indoor Air Quality. cdc.gov
- Dyas, A etal. (1983). Ozone Killing Action Against Bacterial And Fungal Species; Microbiological Testing Of A Domestic Ozone Generator. jcp.bmj.com
- Gromicko, N. (2022). Ozone Generator Hazards. nachi.org
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). Ground-Level Ozone Basics. epa.gov
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). Health Effects of Ozone Pollution. epa.gov
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). Ecosystem Effects of Ozone Pollution. epa.gov
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (1995). Ozone Generators In Indoor Air Settings. epa.gov
- United States Environmental Protection Agency. (2022). Ozone Generators that are Sold as Air Cleaners. epa.gov