Ozone, UV, Ions & Indoor Air Quality

UV - Ozone - Ions - Indoor Air QualityBased on studies by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), billions of dollars are spent annually for medication to help Americans breathe or to treat respiratory illnesses. Eleven million Americans have asthma, and twenty-eight million suffer from hay fever and other allergies. Physicians are now discovering that the solution to many of these problems lies in reducing airborne pollutants and allergens.

Every year at least 6,000 new chemical compounds are developed. Many products made with or containing these chemicals are used indoors every day, at home and at work. Many products such as household furnishings, carpets, and building materials release chemical gases into the air. Add to these pollutants the mold, mildew, bacteria, viruses, tobacco smoke, odors, grease, pollen, dirt, and numerous other contaminants that can affect our breathing and health. Then allow them to re-circulate throughout today’s nearly airtight indoor environments. No wonder indoor air is, on average, two to ten times as polluted as the worst outdoor air.

Viruses and bacteria that thrive in the ducts, coils, and recesses of building ventilation systems have been proven to cause ailments ranging from influenza to tuberculosis. Some heating and air conditioning systems have been found to contain up to twenty-seven species of fungi.

Based on information given at the First Annual Air Quality convention sponsored by EPA, April 1992, Tampa, Florida:

  • 40% of all buildings pose a serious health hazard due to indoor air pollution, according to the World Health Organization.
  • EPA estimates an 18% annual production loss to American business due to poor indoor air quality.
  • 12% of all employees have a major illness related to indoor air pollution such as allergies, asthma, auto-immune diseases, etc.
  • EPA says high levels of formaldehyde cause cancer.
  • Scientists now recognize that pollutants, even at acceptable concentration, have a synergistic negative effect when combined together in an indoor environment.

Indoor Air Quality and Ozone

The air we breathe is made up of mostly oxygen and nitrogen. Ozone can be made from common oxygen and high electrical discharge (known as corona discharge) like a thunderstorm, or it can be created by certain ultraviolet (UV) light waves. Either of these methods break the two oxygen (O2) atoms apart. These single oxygen atoms are extremely reactive and they can combine with molecular oxygen resulting in Ozone (O3) or trivalent oxygen. When this highly reactive O3 molecule floats in the environment it actively seeks out pollutant molecules. One of the atoms from the O3 molecule will attach itself to the pollutant molecule and destroy it. When ozone attacks and destroys a pollutant, generally what is left behind is the two oxygen atoms, carbon dioxide, and hydrogen.

This highly reactive quality of ozone is why ozone is such a powerful and efficient purifier. Ozone will react with almost anything, including chemical sources of unpleasant or hazardous indoor odors. Bacteria, mold and mildew, pet odors, many cooking odors, etc., are destroyed when they react with ozone. Like chemical pollutants, the membranes or shells of bacteria contain unsaturated molecules which are destroyed by ozone. Without its protective membrane or shell, the bacterium dies, leaving only oxygen. The same applies to viruses and fungi.

One of the most important properties of ozone is that it has a very short lifespan. This lifespan is called a “half-life.”  The half-life of ozone is approximately 20 to 30 minutes. This means that half of the ozone created will break down and return to oxygen in approximately 20 to 30 minutes depending on temperature, humidity and the amount of contaminants in the air or on surfaces that the ozone has to counteract. In other words, strong odors or pollutants will use more ozone and light odors will require less. If ozone cannot find a contaminant to work on, it simply reverts to oxygen.

Some of the pollutants ozone can be effective against:

Chemicals Combustion Germs Odors
Cooking Odors Garbage Odors Menthol Onions
Hospital Odors Sewer Gases Asphalt Fumes Butane
Aged Manuscripts Cigarette Smoke Exhaust Fumes Food Odors
Creosote Garlic Mildew Paint Odors
Industrial Wastes Toluene Bacteria Poultry Odors
Dead Animals Gasoline Fecal Odors Carbon Monoxide
Kerosene Viruses Mold Fungi
Algae Acrylic Acid Bathroom Odors Propane
Decaying Odors Formaldehyde Fertilizer Tetrachloride
Lactic Acid Adhesive Gases Moth Balls Furniture Odors
Ammonia Coal Smoke Benzene Rancid Oils
Diesel Fumes Carbolic Acid Fire Odors Carpet Odors
Lubricating Oils Alcohol Naphtha Gangrene
Animal Odors Ethyl Alcohol Body Odors Resins
Ether Anesthetics Fish Odors Charred Materials
Medicinal Odors Flood Odors Nicotine Burned Food Odors

Negative Ionic Generation, Pollutants and Health

Ionization or negative ionic generation is often referred to as the “thunderstorm effect.” It is well known that prior to a thunderstorm, animals and even many humans feel nervous, jittery and irritable; however, after the storm there seems to be a feeling of calm. Both animals and humans experience this phenomena. Most people cannot explain the renewed sense of well-being, however there is a logical explanation. All of this is due to the amount of negative ions in the air around us. Prior to a thunderstorm, a very high concentration of positive ions exists in the air. They tend to be pollutants such as dust, bacteria, pollen, chemicals, etc. The storm releases electrical discharges consisting of high concentrations of negative ions. Negative ions destroy many of these air pollutants and, therefore, give us a sense of well-being. When relatively too many positive ions are present in the air before a storm, the positive ionic charge is transferred in the air you breathe from your lungs to the blood, causing the blood platelets to release a hormone that quite strongly affects your moods, joints, and other physiological functions in your body.

Ions are floating in the air all the time and they have either negative or positive charges on them. Changes in their concentration, or in the ratio of positively to negatively charged molecules, can have remarkable effects on plants and animals. It is known in science that ion depletion is the source of a wide range of human health problems, both mental and physical. Air ions are important to you because if a high proportion of negative ions exists you will feel lively, uplifted, and enthusiastic. However too many positive ions will have you feeling depressed, lethargic, or full of aches, pains, and complaints. In general, exposure to negatively ionized air has been shown to increase oxygenation of the lungs, vital capacity, and ciliary activity. All types of beneficial responses take place as a result of these friendly ions.

Fortunately through modern technology it is possible to control the electrical state of our indoor environments by generating negative ions back in the air. Devices that emit negative ions in order to neutralize the noxious effects of positive ions are called negative ionic generators. Today, ion generators produce negative ions by means of high voltage discharge (corona discharge), usually through stainless steel needles, or as byproducts of other electrical or UV discharge. These electrons attach themselves to an oxygen molecule making it a negatively charged molecule. These negative ions then attach themselves to airborne toxins and drop them to a surface. Ions basically take out the larger pollutants in the air. For example, while ozone will reduce or neutralize smoke chemicals and odors it won't remove the visible smoke particles. Negative ions remove the particles.

Ultraviolet (UVGI) Air Purification

Ultraviolet light-rays are generated by the sun and are one of nature’s methods of purifying the air. Ultraviolet light-rays with specific wave lengths are germicidal and will strike and destroy viruses, bacteria, and fungi. The ultraviolet component of sunlight is the main reason why microbes die in the outdoor air. The ultraviolet energy used by ultraviolet lamps, however, is a much more concentrated and powerful level of ultraviolet energy than found in sunlight. UV light has been used for many years by the medical field to sanitize rooms and equipment. Ultraviolet light sanitizes air that is passed directly in its path.

The use of UV, or more specifically ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI), for the sterilization of microorganisms, has been studied since the 1930’s, and has been used to kill the same kind of microorganisms that are known to cause indoor air quality problems. The quanta of energy that ultraviolet light possesses is just the right amount of energy needed to break organic molecular bonds, resulting in cellular or genetic damage to microorganisms.

Ultraviolet light in the short-wave form is primarily used for the destruction of bacteria and other microorganisms in air, liquids, or on surfaces. UVGI is more powerful than standard UV light. Continuous dosing with high-intensity UV (UVGI) can have a major impact on airborne viruses and bacteria. UVGI can kill mold spores; eliminate musty, mold related odors; prevent development of Legion Ella and other infectious diseases; control proliferation of TB bacterium; and reduce the spread of cold and flu viruses as well as other airborne diseases. Ultraviolet germicidal lamps can destroy any microorganism that comes in contact with its powerful rays. This method is recommended by the Centers for Disease Control for its germicidal effects.

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