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Health Risks from Ionizers

written by: Vandana Singhal • edited by: Lamar Stonecypher • updated: 10/29/2010

Ionizers, used independently or as part of mechanical air purifiers, generate ozone. How safe for humans is it to be deliberately adding even more ozone into the inside atmosphere?

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    Using Air Purifiers

    ozone air purifier A room ionizer makes inside air "fresh" by creating ions that remove microscopic particles from the air. A room ionizer is a table top or standalone device that creates negatively charged ions that flood the room and attract positively charged particles such as dust, bacteria, germs, and other allergens. These bonded particles become too heavy to float in the room and fall down on the floor to be cleaned in the normal way. Anyway, this is what manufacturers claim.

    Room ionizers produce ozone gas. Ozone is trivalent, or saturated, oxygen. Ozone is directly produced by ozone purifiers and indirectly by ion generators. Though manufacturers claim that these ionizers remove allergens, they do not. Moreover, the ozone released from these ionizers can make asthma symptoms worse.

    Image Credit: 432000.ru

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    What Are the Health Risks from Ozone generated from Room Ionizers?

    Ozone has chemical properties that allow it to react with organic materials both outside and inside the body, resulting in harmful health consequences. Ozone, if inhaled even in small amount, can be injurious to health of lung tissues. Further, it may cause throat irritation, chest pain, coughing and shortness of breath. It may also worsen the other chronic respiratory ailments such as asthma and further, affects the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections. When exposed to high amounts of ozone or continuously exposed to low amounts of ozone, not only people with respiratory problems, but also healthy people suffer from breathing difficulty. Though recovery from the health effects occurring from low levels of ozone may be possible, it is quite difficult if the damage is occurred due to regular exposure of high amounts of ozone. Users must understand that ozone is a toxic gas and can cause irrecoverable health damages.

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    How Much Ozone is Safe from Air Purifiers?

    According to FDA defined limit, there should be a maximum of 0.05 parts per million of ozone produced by medical devices in indoor air. In the workplace, this limit is set at 100 ppb for 8 hours. Though ozone is often used for purifying water to kill microbes, it is not effective in air unless used at very high, unsafe levels (more than 3000 ppb).

    Various studies have shown that air is not purified by the safe levels of ozone since it cannot oxidize air pollutants at this level. Most room ionizers produce dangerous levels of ozone and produce more concentration in the room. However, a few room ionizers have inbuilt controllers to prevent the ozone levels exceeding from safe limits. One more concern is continuous exposure to ozone dulls the sense of smell.

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    Is it Safe to Use Ozone Air Purifiers in Unoccupied Spaces?

    Ozone air purifiers are used to treat homes and its items after a fire to remove the smoke odors. Since ozone is a strong oxidizer, it degrades things like paints, furniture, upholstery, rubber and other things. Thus, even if you are using it in unoccupied spaces too, it will eventually damage electronic devices and building materials.

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    Conclusion

    Using zone room ionizers can cause great health risks if used continuously or at high levels.

    References

    EPA - Ozone Generators That Are Sold As Air Cleaners

    EPA - Indoor Air Quality

    ConsumerResearch.com - Is too much ozone harmful to health?

    California EPA - Hazardous Ozone-Generating "Air Purifiers"


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