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Ozone Generators Create Home Smog

Air Purifiers That Produce Ozone May Be Hurting Your Health

Ozone Generators vs. Ionic Air Purifiers continued...

"There are plenty of ionic air purifiers; only a small fraction make ozone," Nizkorodov says.

Mark Connelly, senior director of appliances and home improvement for Consumer Reports, oversees the magazine's air-cleaner tests.

"You don't want to say that anything that generates ozone is bad," Connelly tells WebMD. "A printer produces ozone, but just because printers sit on people's desks doesn't mean they should be taken off the market. But the people who buy air purifiers are most susceptible to the problems they create. You buy it to make things better, and it ends up making things worse for you."

Whatever ozone comes from ionic air purifiers pales in comparison to the amount produced by ozone-generating air purifiers. These machines make ozone for one reason: That's what they are designed to do.

"Ozone is a very effective way of disinfecting water -- and some believe it is also possible to do this in the air," Nizkorodov says. "Unfortunately, at the concentrations you need to destroy germs and pollutants, the ozone levels are so high you cannot safely use it."

In a small bathroom, the UCI researchers found that one ozone generator, the EZ-COM Air Purifier, took only a half hour to build up ozone to a smog level that would force school closings if detected in a city's air. In a 1,250-square-foot office, the device took about a half hour to build ozone to smog levels that would trigger unsafe air alerts.

By contrast, the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze Quadra model -- an ionic air purifier, not an ozone generator -- built ozone to a maximum level of 40 parts per billion (ppb) in a large office. The FDA considers medical devices safe if they emit less than 50 ppb of ozone. The World Health Organization considers eight-hour ozone levels of 60 ppb to be acceptable.

The Quadra did make the air unsafe when used in a small bathroom -- not the products' intended use, says Sharper Image spokeswoman Suzie Stephens.

"Sharper Image products were included in the study and, in fact, met all safety standards for ultra-low trace ozone emissions when the appropriate-sized models were used in the manufacturer-recommended room sizes," Stephens tells WebMD. "Why they chose to place the unit in a room size for which it is clearly not intended nor used is inexplicable."

Stephens worries that the UCI study sows confusion by testing ionic air purifiers alongside ozone generators. Indeed, she points to news reports on the study that confused Sharper Image products with ozone generators.

"The study found that ozone generators, not ionic air purifiers when used appropriately, can generate potentially unsafe levels of ozone indoors," Stephens says. "None of the Sharper Image air purifiers are ozone generators."

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