Warning: Ozone Creating Air Purifiers, Don’t Do it. Plants: Yes.

By | February 1, 2009

I got an ozone producing air purifier to fight cigarette smoke. After a bit more research (see below), I’m taking it back. I’m going to go with plants instead. (see below). They work and produce real oxygen. I picked up my first Dracaena tonight.

Is breathing ozone air from air purifiers good or bad for your health?

Well, that depends on who you’re listening to. If you listen to the ozone air purifier salesman, he’ll claim that breathing ozone air from air purifiers is “good” and safe.

However, if you listen to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Consumer Reports, the answer is definitely “bad!” As far as the experts are concerned, breathing ozone air from air purifiers is harmful to human health. Here’s why.

Ozone is an irritant and breathing it in can worsen asthma and cause coughing, wheezing and chest pains. It also deadens your sense of smell, raises your sensitivity to pollen and mold and may even be responsible for permanent lung damage.

http://xenophilia.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/02/Captain_Ozone27s_Travels320x320.jpgIn fact, Consumer Reports, the EPA, Canada and some U.S. states have issued warnings against ozone from air purifiers. For example, California warns, “People should avoid using indoor air cleaning devices that produce ozone.”

Ozone is a highly effective killer that oxidizes whatever it comes into contact with. Sure, ozone kills bacteria and mold, but it’s also the same molecule responsible for the free radicals that can cause heart disease, cancer and premature aging.

Now, I’m not saying that breathing ozone air from air purifiers will kill you, but ozone is definitely not something you want to voluntarily breathe into your lungs. There’s just too much evidence against it.

However, ozone generator marketers say their machines are approved by the government. That’s simply not true. Air purifiers fall into a bureaucratic crack where there are no regulations. According to the EPA, a registration number on the packaging “does NOT imply EPA endorsement or suggest in any way that the EPA has found the product to be either safe or effective.”

Another sales pitch is that you can keep an ozone air purifier on low and only turn it up until you smell a “fresh laundry odor.” But as you breathe it in, you quickly become desensitized to the ozone smell. And keeping the setting on low, doesn’t eliminate the problem, it only makes the air from an ozone air purifier a little less dangerous.

How do these marketers get away with making such outrageous claims? Easy! Since ozone generators have no regulation, salespeople can say anything and everything they want, in order to sell their product. There’s no one to stop them.

As you can see, you should be concerned about breathing ozone air from air purifiers. There are other safer more effective choices available.

When you consider all the options, a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) purifier with an additional activated charcoal filter is your best option. The HEPA system combined with a charcoal filter works like a sponge soaking up offensive cooking, tobacco and pet odors, as well as being 99.9% effective at eliminating airborne allergens down to 0.3 microns in size. That’s small. There are over 600 microns in the period at the end of this sentence.

A HEPA system with a charcoal filter provides the best benefits, with no risk of breathing ozone air from air purifiers. – ezinearticles

First, a review of scientific research shows that, for many of the chemicals commonly found in indoor environments, the reaction process with ozone may take months or years (Boeniger, 1995). For all practical purposes, ozone does not react at all with such chemicals. And contrary to specific claims by some vendors, ozone generators are not effective in removing carbon monoxide (Salls, 1927; Shaughnessy et al., 1994) or formaldehyde (Esswein and Boeniger, 1994).
Second, for many of the chemicals with which ozone does readily react, the reaction can form a variety of harmful or irritating by-products (Weschler et al., 1992a, 1992b, 1996; Zhang and Lioy, 1994). For example, in a laboratory experiment that mixed ozone with chemicals from new carpet, ozone reduced many of these chemicals, including those which can produce new carpet odor. However, in the process, the reaction produced a variety of aldehydes, and the total concentration of organic chemicals in the air increased rather than decreased after the introduction of ozone (Weschler, et. al., 1992b). In addition to aldehydes, ozone may also increase indoor concentrations of formic acid (Zhang and Lioy, 1994), both of which can irritate the lungs if produced in sufficient amounts. Some of the potential by-products produced by ozone’s reactions with other chemicals are themselves very reactive and capable of producing irritating and corrosive by-products (Weschler and Shields, 1996, 1997a, 1997b). – epa

Many useful things have come from NASA. This one is better than Tang. This is an older study but still one I think more people should know about.

NASA Study House Plants Clean Air

In the late 1980s, a study by NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) resulted in excellent news for homeowners and office workers everywhere. The study concluded that common houseplants such as bamboo palms and spider plants not only make indoor spaces more attractive, they also help to purify the air!

The study was conducted by Dr. B.C. Wolverton, Anne Johnson, and Keith Bounds in 1989. While it was originally intended to find ways to purify the air for extended stays in orbiting space stations, the study proved to have implications on Earth as well. – cg

Common indoor plants may provide a valuable weapon in the fight against rising levels of indoor air pollution.

Those plants in your office or home are not only decorative, but NASA scientists are finding them to be surprisingly useful in absorbing potentially harmful gases and cleaning the air inside modern buildings.  … NASA and the Associated Landscape Contractors of America (ALCA) have announced the findings of a 2-year study that suggest a sophisticated pollution-absorbing device: the common indoor plant may provide a natural way of helping combat “SICK BUILDING SYNDROME”.

While more research is needed, Wolverton says the study has shown that common indoor landscaping plants can remove certain pollutants from the indoor environment. “We feel that future results will provide an even stronger argument that common indoor landscaping plants can be a very effective part of a system used to provide pollution free homes and work places, ” he concludes.

Each plant type was placed in sealed, Plexiglas chambers in which chemicals were injected. Philodendron, spider plant and the golden pothos were labeled the most effective in removing formaldehyde molecules. Flowering plants such as gerbera daisy and chrysanthemums were rated superior in removing benzene from the chamber atmosphere. Other good performers are Dracaena Massangeana, Spathiphyllum, and Golden Pothos. “Plants take substances out of the air through the tiny openings in their leaves,” Wolverton said. “But research in our laboratories has determined that plant leaves, roots and soil bacteria are all important in removing trace levels of toxic vapors”.

“Combining nature with technology can increase the effectiveness of plants in removing air pollutants,” he said. “A living air cleaner is created by combining activated carbon and a fan with a potted plant. The roots of the plant grow right in the carbon and slowly degrade the chemicals absorbed there,” Wolverton explains.

NASA research has consistently shown that living, green and flowering plants can remove several toxic chemicals from the air in building interiors. You can use plants in your home or office to improve the quality of the air to make it a more pleasant place to live and work – where people feel better, perform better, any enjoy life more. – zone10

TOP 10 plants most effective in removing: formaldehyde, benzene, and carbon monoxide from the air:

Common Name Scientific Name
Bamboo Palm Chamaedorea Seifritzii
Chinese Evergreen Aglaonema Modestum
English Ivy Hedera Helix
Gerbera Daisy Gerbera Jamesonii
Janet Craig Dracaena “Janet Craig”
Marginata Dracaena Marginata
Mass cane/Corn Plant Dracaena Massangeana
Mother-in-Law’s Tongue Sansevieria Laurentii
Pot Mum Chrysantheium morifolium
Peace Lily Spathiphyllum “Mauna Loa”
Warneckii Dracaena “Warneckii”

For an average home of under 2,000 square feet, the study recommends using at least fifteen samples of a good variety of these common houseplants to help improve air quality. They also recommend that the plants be grown in six inch containers or larger.

Here is a list of resources for more information on this important study:

PDF files of the NASA studies related to plants and air quality: here, here

List of NASA studies related to treating a variety of air and waterborne pollutants with plants: here


19 thoughts on “Warning: Ozone Creating Air Purifiers, Don’t Do it. Plants: Yes.

  1. Mike

    you are right ozone air purifiers are dangerous, but there are non ozone producing ones that are good like RGF’S Guardian Air plug in. you can learn about them at totalcleanair.com

    1. Leon Arceneaux

      What about Guardian Air REME which that they call “hydroperoxides”? Is his all BS or do they release ionized air? I had a unit once tat release ionized air and it caused the pollutants to stick to the wall. Isn’t ionized oxygen ozone?

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  4. RaiulBaztepo

    Very Interesting post! Thank you for such interesting resource!
    PS: Sorry for my bad english, I’v just started to learn this language 😉
    See you!
    Your, Raiul Baztepo

  5. solarkent

    The whole thing is a marketing scam! You tell the punter that they have a problem – which they weren’t aware of before, then create the product that fills the niche created by the clever insidious promotion! In the UK we have dreadful adverts for air fresheners that squirt chemicals as you go by, vile things, but morons buy them because the clever sales and marketing people say that without them they are dirty people in a smelly house!

    Plants, yes, have loads of them, but don’t forget to water them.

  6. Pingback: Indoor Plants Can Reduce Formaldehyde Levels « Xenophilia (True Strange Stuff)

  7. stop stuttering

    Thank you for another solid article. Where else could anyone get that kind of selective information in such a clear way of writing? I have a presentation next week, and I am on the look out for such selective information.

  8. kevin

    something worth mentioning…

    ozone chemistry in water is not the same as ozone chemistry in air, this is a pretty helpful link


    “It is also found that ozone alone is a promising method of efficiently “removing pharmaceutical drugs” that are known to persistent in drinking water. Swiss researchers used ozone on five prescription medications known to persist in water and found these drugs to be completely transformed two to three times faster than atrazine is transformed.”

  9. Rossana Worm

    I might name your blog the dreamland! While Santa knocks at our door just once per year, you blog is open the entire year – wow! Thank you.

  10. Alain

    Why does everything have to be black or white, can’t there be some form of grey?

    You are right in too high quantities, Ozone is bad for us but in the right small quantities, it is the best oxidizer there is and takes care of bacterias, viruses and yes smells generated from numerous sources.

    The HEPA filters you are recommending will only captures the bacterias and viruses but will not kill them as will UV C and UV V (generating minute ozone) will.

    Do you research right and, as Kevin indicates, you will find that Ozone is used more and more to sanitize a lot of the things we eat, drink and breath all to our benefit.

    Again, too much ozone is bad for us but the right very small amounts can be clearly helpful.

    1. David Sonenfild

      You mentioned UV-C generators produce tiny amount of ozone – I have Germ Guardian UV-C plug in units all over my house that come on for 2hrs twice a day. Do these units produce ozone and if so how muchm and is the amoun they produce OK.

      Also do these units handle the toxic gases of methane and benzine that are coming out of the Gulf Oil diaster. I am concerned about that pollution A LOT. Or do you know of another type that do?

      Looking forward to your response.


  11. cynthia

    Yesterday I had the RGF’s Guardian Air PHI Cell installed in my home, in an attempt to reduce my son’s asthma triggers. Almost instantly I noticed a strange smell- sort of like a deisel exhaust odor. I’m not sure if it is a good odor or not. My intentions are to purify the air in my home but this odor is puzzling to me. So I googled my question regarding this odor and G.A. And I came upon this blog… It is very interesting! David asks a great question and I too am wondering if the degree of ozone being produced by G.A. Is too much for my 2000 sqft home. I do not have plug-ins, my system runs constantly while my A/C is running. Thank you for any additional information. Best regards.

    1. Ryan

      All of rgf products emit small amounts of ozone. They claim they all only emit the legal level of 0.04ppm and admit the dangerous effects of increased ozone. I am a hvac contractor who actually sells/installs the product and have an incredible amount of testimonials praising the effects of their new Guardian Air light. I even have a client that takes constant care of 3 quadrapalegic boys and said a week after it was installed all 3 boys started being able to sleep all through the night (which apparantly NEVER happened before) and far less trips to the hospital. I’ve had a lot of positive feedback from my customers. A few have mentioned the smell and it is the ozone, again not enough to harm you or any living thing in your home, but is noticeable as you don’t usually smell that in your home. Also, if it is not hooked up to your fan circuit on your furnace it will build up ozone in the ductwork when the fan is not running then you get a bigger burst when it does turn on.

    2. Adriana Altamirano

      I just installed the same product in my house and there is the same smell as you are describing, I’m really concerned about my family health. Did the smell go away? Please let me know.

  12. dogg

    Is there any scientific study done by qualified individuals or organizations on the danger/safety of ozone other than the EPA and Consumer Reports, who I don’t trust with anything? They have repeatedly shown to be willing to sell-out to corporate or government interests.

  13. Richard

    I see a lot of praise coming from RGF for its own products. What I don’t see is third party, independent lab reviews that document the veracity of the claims that RGF is making. I came across the REME HALO because an HVAC company recommended that I install it in my new AC system. At this point, I don’t know if the REME HALO is good or bad for my health. There is no independent lab testing that provides evidence of the health effects of this product. This product may very well kill odors; however, is it going to make me and my family sick in the process. Why doesn’t the AMA support the product? There is a lot of marketing hype and claims being made and not enough documented scientific analysis to support the claims that the manufacturer is making. Maybe the company should tone down its focus on its 110 foot yacht and really prove its claims that the products works and will not make you sick. I think there is a gaping hole of information here. I am a private consumer with no affiliation to the HVAC industry. A company offered to install this product in my home to improve the air quality in my home.

    RGF needs to have far more developed documentation as to the health effects of it products before a person like me would consider installing the product in his home. YouTube videos with HVAC technicians don’t cut it. Testimonials don’t cut it. Hard scientific evidence and medical studies are needed.

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