Ozone, or O3, is a trace constituent that occurs naturally in the atmosphere. Oxygen becomes ozone when a third oxygen molecule is bound to O2 via oxidation. Ozone is a water-soluble gas with a very distinct scent. In lower levels its color makes the sky blue and the air smell fresh. Ozone is the second strongest oxidizer known (after fluorine) and the number one most powerful water sanitizer available. It can inactivate viruses and bacteria 3,000 times faster than chlorine. It is also unsurpassed for the control of bacteria like fecal coliforms and E-Coli, as well as deactivation of molds, viruses, fungus, cysts and mildew.
Ozone has been used for purifying water since 1893, and is also very popular for disinfection, air deodorization, detoxification and food preservation. It is formed during lightning and thunder storms, or when UV rays strike oxygen rising from sea plankton and plants. The natural ozone found in the Earth's atmosphere helps block harmful UV rays that lead to skin cancer.
Misconceptions and "Ozone Alerts"
Ozone is easy to detect and is a readily created byproduct when the sun's rays strike pollution's hydrocarbons. It is not pollution itself, but can be used to better detect high levels of pollution. More pollution + more sun = more ozone creation. Thus ozone alerts are telling you there are more hydrocarbons in the air.
Ozone is not smog. Smog is a combination of UV light from the sun and engine exhaust. Ozone does not come out of car exhaust. Ozone research by the EPA with very high levels of ozone have shown some negative results, but no human being would subject themselves to these levels. Anything in excess can be a bad thing. Ozone is natural - it is nature's way of purifying the air. If it did not exist, life would cease to exist.
So how does ozone work?
Ozone freely floats in water and air. As it circulates and contacts airborne pathogens, the third molecule of oxygen detaches and reattaches itself to the pollutant, turning it into a safer compound.
Ozone has a biocidal action that results from a reaction with double bonds of fatty acids in the cell walls and membranes of bacteria and the protein capsid of viruses. Oxidation results in a change to bacteria's cell permeability. Ozone attacks these walls, breaking down the structure and membranes. In viruses, ozone alters the protein capsid which prevents other cells from taking up the virus. Normal cells are not destroyed by ozone. Ozone is so powerful in destroying bacteria that only small amounts are needed to show germicidal action. It obliterates all saprophytic and pathogenic microbes in water. Temperature, humidity, pH, the type of organism, ozone levels and time determine the pathogen's kill rate.
After oxidation, ozone simply returns to oxygen, leaving no residues or toxic byproducts. Ozone will oxidize organic compounds like oxalic and acetic acids, as well as chloro-benzic and nitro compounds, herbicides, detergents and composite pesticides. It oxidizes manganese, iron, heavy metals, sulfides, cyanide and nitrates in water. By washing vegetables and fruits with ozonated water, levels of lead can be reduced as well as many soil and air pollution contaminates. Ozone destroys bad odors and ethylene gas which allows vegetables and fruits to last longer.
As an air filter, ozone is much cheaper than replaceable filters and more effective. Filters can only clean the air that passes through them, and filters, sprays and ionizers don't eliminate the causes of odors. Ozone will. When the cause is gone, the odor can't come back unless the cause is reintroduced.
Ozone and safety
At very high levels ozone can be harmful, but it is safe for humans at low levels. No deaths have been attributed to low level ozone use since 1885. It is not listed as a carcinogen by NTP, OSHA or IARC. The irritation threshold in humans is around .06 parts per million with no evidence of damage to health via continuous lower level concentrations. Steady concentrations between 0.01 and 0.045 ppm are well below safety limits, and these are the levels most often used. When higher amounts are needed, many devices will come with a timer that will automatically shut off the machine.
Thousands of chemicals are added to foods sold to the public, with over 700 found in drinking water in some cities. Ozone doesn't produce chloroforms or trihalomethanes like chlorine does. While chlorine can be blamed for deaths worldwide, there is no evidence of deaths attributable to ozone. Chemicals can cause rashes, personality changes, cell toxicity, cancer, aging and more. It is thought that around 30 million people get sick from foods every year. Reducing these pathogens is essential and ozone can do that safely. Spores, molds, bacteria, viruses and other single cell organisms decrease shelf life and cause spoilage. Bacterial or organic growths on refrigeration coils, produce, drain lines and pans cause cross-contamination. Ozone can destroy bacteria in a matter of days. It doesn't harm good cells or alter food chemistry. It will actually improve taste of many foods by oxidizing herbicides and pesticides and by neutralizing ethylene gas and ammonia made by ripening. Like irradiation, ozone can improve the food supply by lessening waste, while increasing exports due to extending the shelf life of perishable foods.
Unlike radiation, ozone is natural and much healthier. Large doses of radiation forms benzene, which decreases levels of vitamin B1 in foods. Ozone does not. Ozone changes the complex structure of the chemical to its original basic and safe elements. No bad residues are left behind and when oxidation is complete, ozone reverts to plain oxygen. Scientifically speaking there is no dispute: ozone is the best natural viricide and bactericide available.
The legal aspects of ozone
Ozone predates the 1906 pure Food and Drug Act and has Grandfathered Legal Status. It has prior Generally Regarded as Safe (GRAS) affirmation as an antimicrobial agent. The Functional Use Of code 170.3 (o)(2) supports it as an AAS, or Antimicrobial Agents Substance that can be used to preserve food by preventing the growth of microorganisms. While this does not say the only functional use of ozone is for water, it does affirm that it is safe to use on food. The USDA approved ozone in 1957 for use in meat aging coolers. It was also approved by the USDA in 1991 for use in recycling poultry chill water.
What kind of products use ozone?
Ozone is the method used in ozone air purifiers, ozone generators, food sanitizers and more. If you have any questions about ozone or ozone products, feel free to call us at 888-742-3404.