In your mission for cleaner air, have you used ozone-generating air purifiers? Is ozone toxic or not? We provide honest answers here!
In 2018 and 2017, the US had 15% more days with unhealthy air compared to the average from 2013 to 2016. That’s a considerable increase in the number of days with high levels of pollution.
Ground-level ozone is one of the primary culprits behind unhealthy air. So, if you’ve been wondering, “is ozone toxic?”, the answer is yes, it is.
It’s important to note, however, that there’s a different type of ozone considered to be the “good” kind.
If those statements got you confused, don’t worry. We’ll explain the basics of ozone in detail below, so be sure to read on.
What Is Ozone?
Ozone is a gas that consists of three oxygen atoms, hence its formula “O3.” It’s a gas that occurs naturally in trace amounts in the stratosphere or the upper atmosphere. From there, it protects living things from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation.
However, not all ozone gets created in and stays up in the upper atmosphere. O3 also forms in the troposphere, the lower atmosphere that’s near the surface of the earth. This is the ozone known as “ground-level ozone.”
So, Is Ozone Toxic?
Yes, ozone is a toxic gas that can harm not just humans but also other animals and plants. Direct exposure, which can occur through “ground-level” ozone, can cause several health problems.
What makes this type of ozone bad is that it exists in the same “level” as other living things, like humans.
How Toxic Is Ozone?
In humans and animals, ozone can cause health issues like reduced lung capacity. Exposure to this gas can also aggravate asthma, irritate the throat, and result in coughs. Chest pains and restricted breathing can also result from inhalation of ozone.
Moreover, inhalation of this toxic gas may raise risks for lung infections. Other studies also link ground-level ozone exposure to cardiovascular diseases.
At What Concentration Is Ozone Toxic?
It’s unhealthy to get exposed to ozone levels of more than 70 parts per billion for eight hours (or more). The more ozone there is in the lower atmosphere, the more toxic the air can be.
Ground-level ozone can affect individuals with lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic bronchitis.
Is Ozone Always Bad?
No, so long as it stays “up high,” as in within the stratosphere. At that height (between 6.2 to 31 miles above ground/sea level), ozone absorbs most UV radiation. It protects the earth from almost all UVC rays, most UVB rays, and 50% UVA rays from the sun.
About 90% of the ozone present in the atmosphere, is in the stratosphere, serving as a UV protection. What’s more, human-produced chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have also destroyed parts of this “good” ozone. Many of the CFCs produced then are from refrigerants, such as those in air conditioners.
Where Does the “Bad” Kind of Ozone Come From?
Ground-level ozone originates from chemical reactions between certain gases. These include nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These gases come from many sources, such as power plants, industry emissions, and vehicles.
When NOx, VOCs, sun heat, and sunlight combine, they create ground-level ozone. Solar heat and radiation facilitate this reaction.
With that said, high levels of tropospheric O3 is more common during hot days, like in summer days, when solar intensity are higher. However, the wind can also carry ozone to far distances, so even those in rural areas can see a spike in O3 levels.
Can Ozone Get Into Your Home?
Yes, it definitely can. Indeed, one of the primary sources of indoor ozone is the outdoor atmosphere. Ground-level ozone in the outdoor air can seep into your home.
The other source of indoor O3 in homes and offices are some types of electronic devices, like printers. However, studies found that some devices marketed as air cleaners also produce ozone. That’s why it’s always vital to read independent reviews if you want to use an air purifier.
What Can You Do to Prevent Indoor Ozone Pollution?
Note that ozone is only one of the pollutants that can affect indoor air quality. Carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and radon are just to name a few. Furthermore, contaminants, like molds, fungi, bacteria, and viruses, may also be in your indoor air.
With that said, one of the top ways to prevent ozone and also indoor air pollution is to use an air purifier. It’s a device that clean the air and can removes pollutants from it. The most innovative ones also kill pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Again, it’s best to choose one that has undergone independent laboratory testing. This way, you can be sure that the purifier doesn’t create ozone but instead removes some of it from the air in your home.
If you have gas-powered appliances, such as a gas stove, make sure to use proper ventilation. Exhaust fans can help remove ozone, humid air, and other pollutants from the room.
It’s also best to avoid smoking indoors (or better yet, quit smoking altogether). You should also limit the use of air freshener sprays, as these emit over 100 different chemicals. Exhaust fans and open windows provide a better way to freshen up the air at home.
The Bottom Line: It’s the Ground-Level Ozone That’s Dangerous
There you have it; all the answers to your question, “is ozone toxic?” Remember: it’s toxic when it forms on ground-level, but it’s protective from high up. That’s why you’d want to avoid exposure from ground-level ozone.
So, as much as you can, improve your indoor air quality by using proper ventilation and avoiding smoking indoors, and the use of air fresheners. You might also want to invest in a high-quality, non-ozone-producing air purifier.
Interested to learn more about innovative air cleaning technologies? If so, please feel free to get in touch with us, and we’ll be happy to answer your questions.