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Is Ozone Good for You and What Does Ozone Smell Like?

The ozone layer protects the planet Earth fr om ultraviolet radiation, we smell it after a thunderstorm. Due to its potent oxidative quality, ozone is used in many industries as well as medicine.

What Does Ozone Mean?

O3, the molecule of ozone, contains an oxygen O2 molecule and another oxygen atom - O. An atom can disconnect from the O2 molecule and attach to other molecules. By doing this it changes their biochemistry. Thanks to this reaction odors are removed as well as pollution, viruses, and bacteria. O3 is much more effective for disinfection purposes than chlorine for instance. Ozone is also effective in the elimination of fungus, mold, and even dust mites.

Sources of Ozone

Ozone from the stratosphere is the planet’s protective layer, but the tropospheric, ground-level ozone is an air contaminant. 

Anthropogenic ozone is obtained from air or oxygen in ozonizers by means of electric discharge. Ozone is formed in many processes accompanied by the release of atomic oxygen, for example, during the decomposition of peroxides, the oxidation of phosphorus.

According to a number of studies, the interaction between O3 and volatile organic compounds can lead to the formation of even more harmful compounds, and not to their neutralization.

About Ozone Exposure

Natural ozone effects on humans have been studied and it is known that even small concentrations of toxic ozone can be harmful to health. Ozone mainly affects the lung’s soft tissue by inhalation, although under certain conditions it can also irritate the skin. 

Ozone intoxication can be followed by these symptoms:

- Respiratory system irritability. Cough, throat itch, discomfort in the chest. 

- Lungs’ poor function. Difficulty breathing, especially during increased activity. Ozone suppresses lung function, leading to spasm, which traps air in the alveoli. This leads to shortness of breath. 

- Lung mucous membrane trauma/inflammation. Ozone intoxication provokes weakness and even downtime. Lung tissue gets scarred over, but eventually heals. The bigger problem awaits if a person is exposed to this kind of trauma regularly. This type of individual will risk being deprived of some of the lung functionality.

- Chronic disease aggravation. Patients that have background medical conditions connected with lungs (acute severe asthma, pulmonary edema, bronchus disorders) are the most susceptible to ozone. Asthma patients can get more spasm attacks, they become more sensitive to various airborne allergens.

Several scientific research schools confirmed that ozone kills viruses, bacteria, and mold. The number of surviving viruses in airborne aerosols decreases exponentially as ozone concentration grows. This gas is very effective for the decontamination of any viruses transmitted through the air (airborne droplets). 

Ozone air disinfection qualities are indeed very powerful. But the ozone level, which is effective in killing bacteria and viruses is much too high for humans to be exposed to. Actually, it is nearly ten times as high. The scariest of consequences await those who have to deal with ozone on a regular basis.

How to use ozone for disinfection?

Ozone is a known decontamination tool in households, offices, kindergarten, factory, and medical facilities. Ozonation is used for:

  • sterilization of refrigerators, warehouses;

  • water and air treatment;

  • to eliminate stubborn odors;

  • sterilization of medical instruments;

  • disinfection and increase the shelf life of food.

Ozone is used in medicine for sanitization as well as ozone therapy. Ozone for ozone therapy in medicine is obtained only from pure oxygen. When air is exposed to hard ultraviolet radiation, ozone is formed. The same process takes place in the upper atmosphere, wh ere the ozone layer is formed and maintained under the influence of solar radiation.

Facts on Ozone 

To fight common misconceptions of ozone, we’ve prepared a breakdown of things we do know about it:

  1. An ozonizer does not help with larger VOCs (dust or pollen).

  2. Lungs get easily sensitized when exposed to increased ozone levels. This, in turn, can lead to easy infection or damage to the airways.

  3. Ozone does not neutralize formaldehyde or carbon monoxide.

  4. Asthma patients and allergy sufferers are affected by ozone the most. In combination with pollen and other airborne allergens, ozone enhances allergy symptoms.

  5. A 2007 study at Duke University Medical Center showed that inhaling large amounts of ozone weakens the immune system. Scientists created conditions for laboratory mice in which the concentration of ozone would approach an unhealthy one and found that mice exposed to gas became more susceptible to bacterial toxins.

So, the huge advantage of ozone is that it can disinfect the air, destroy bacteria and infections very well. But at the same time, a person is better off without directly contacting ozone. 

Despite a common misconception on air purification, there are still devices that disinfect the air and do not release ozone into the room. An air purifier that involves technology with a few stages of air decontamination:

  • the primary filter for cleaning from coarse dust

  • the HEPA filter for the smallest contaminants and allergens

  • the AK filter for odors and harmful gases.

All of these together provide air filtration from all types of pollution, including dust, pollen, animal hair, etc. 

What Does Ozone Smell Like?

It is widely believed that “any natural smell of freshness” is ozone. Some people think that ozone is the scent that fills the air right after heavy rain or a thunderstorm. The smell of ozone reminds some of the chlorine, metal, burnt wire. 

Most people can detect approximately 0.01 mol of ozone in the air, thanks to its rather pungent odor. If the air contains from 0.1 to 1 mol of ozone in the air, headaches, burning eyes and irritation of nose, pharynx, larynx, trachea, and main bronchi can occur.

In urban conditions, ozone is most often formed as a result of the reaction between volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides in the presence of sunlight (photochemical reaction). Therefore, the highest levels of air pollution with ozone are observed in sunny weather, in the morning.

How do I Fight Ozone intoxication?

How can you tell if you are being affected by ozone? A logical question and it is rather easy to answer. As we’ve mentioned before, irritation to the eyes and nose may signal the danger at first. 

If moving to the countryside is not possible for your health safety, the only way out is to fight ozone. Technological methods for removing ozone from a room are known. One of the active methods is a forced run of air in the room through activated carbon filters. A passive approach would be the use of specific coatings on the walls/ceiling that reduces the ozone content in the air. 

Some organic construction materials with natural absorbing qualities, like clay-based paints/plasters, clay and limestone cladding stones, perlite-based ceiling tiles, drywall sheets have been invented and are said to aid air clarification. These methods are high-cost and require a lot of effort to come by, but they do not always have sufficient efficacy (especially in large cities). 

The most promising, environmentally friendly and budget-friendly option is to use pot plants. Ozone can be removed by plants that produce monoterpenes. Plant stoma is known to absorb ozone. Plant leaves are able to also adsorb air pollutants and microbes on their surface, while the leaves (and endophytes in them) are able to decompose or convert pollutants into non-toxic molecules.

How to Reduce Harmful Effects of Ozone?

There are a number of approaches that you can take to reduce the risk of exposure to excess toxic gas:

  • Use high-quality filter air cleaners using HEPA and carbon filters;

  • When buying an air purifier, read the documentation and make sure that it does not emit any amount of substance into the environment at all;

  • In the case of a room full of ozone sources (laser printers, copy machines, etc.), it is necessary to ensure high-quality ventilation and the flow of fresh purified air;

  • Try to avoid the use of indoor cleaners and furniture that contain large amounts of volatile organic compounds, as their effects may be aggravated by contact with O3.

Conclusions

The advantage of ozone lies in its ability to disinfect water, air, food and much more. Ozone treatment helps remove unwanted odors, such as tobacco smoke or cooking smells.

Some people use ozonizers with no second thoughts. It’s important to stress, that ozonation has its own nuances: O3 can be dangerous if used incorrectly.

Ozone can be both beneficial and dangerous. As we found out, there are more reliable and effective solutions for improving air quality. A healthy microclimate can be ensured with the help of a humidifier, high-quality ventilation, and an air purifier-disinfectant. Choose the climatic equipment that is both: reliable and safe.


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