Potential Damage from Prolonged Ozone Exposure

In the ongoing saga regarding the effect of ozone on electronics, we did our own experiment that exposed a plastic bag, a small speaker, and a cell phone to high levels of ozone (much higher than 20 ppm) for a period of 5 days.  Frankly, our meter does not go higher than 20 ppm, so with a 3000 mg/hr ozone cell in a box less than 2 foot square was super intense.

At the end of five days of constant and extreme ozone exposure, the bag was unaffected.  The speaker was still working, and the cell phone was still working fine.  In our opinion, there is likely no practical situation where this intensity of ozone exposure will happen in most service applications.

One item to note, however, was that the white plastic on the speaker had yellowed, and the screen on the cell phone also had a yellow tinge.  So, let me explain the implications of this effect.  Starting with the well-established premise that ozone is only an enriched form of oxygen, this is not something that would not happen in a much slower fashion anyway.  I am sure we have all held onto something that yellowed with age.  UV light exposure will hasten the aging effect, and so will intense ozone exposure over a protracted period.

It helps to know that ozone is used in industrial applications to "Age Products" or "Cure" certain plastics, paints, etc.  The abundance of oxygen atoms will speed up aging through a process called oxidation.  Oxidation is the primary action of oxygen, and that is how it accomplishes so many wonderful things.  To destroy odors, ozone finds the source of the odor and oxidizes it.  To kill germs, the oxygen atom burns the outer membrane of the bacteria or virus causing them to die as the membrane fails.  The ability to kill mold and neutralize mold spores is its oxidizing action.

Oxygen is a miracle of nature.  We see it used in many ways.  New and more powerful cleaning detergents now boast the "Power of Oxygen" to clean and whiten.  Hydrogen peroxide applications are yet another delivery system for increased oxygen applications.  

So, like many good things in life, ozone is part of that wonder of nature.  It protects us from excess UV light by converting UV light into ozone in our upper atmosphere.  It is made by sunlight in the lower atmosphere and acts as a cleaning agent in nature.  It is an amazing sanitizing agent that no germs are immune to its power.  And, it is very effective to destroy odors because oxidation neutralizes the problem at the source.

With all that said, what are the downsides?  Well, too much of a good thing can have a negative effect on living things.  High levels of ozone is a respiratory irritant.  In other words, too much ozone will irritate the mucus membrane in your nose, throat, and lungs.  So, it is never advisable to go into a high ozone area without a carbon filter mask.

As stated above, your extreme ozone test on three common items (plastic bag, speaker cube, and cell phone) show a yellowing of the white plastic shell, and we notice a yellow tinge on the cell phone screen.  This is after FIVE DAYS of very high ozone levels.  This is not something that would happen in a normal ozone treatment, but there is a lesson to be learned.

LESSON ONE:  Short, intense ozone treatments are recommended above treatments lasting 24, 48, and 72 hours.  Thanks to high-output ozone generators, treatments can be accomplished in 2-6 hours without harm to any common products.  Even plants are not harmed by shorter treatments but may yellow if they are in an ozone environment for days.

LESSON TWO: It is better to treat very intense odor issues in cycles of 4-8 max.  Give the house a chance to breathe between treatments and evaluate if another cycle is required.  The example of a hoarder home could require two, three, and four eight hour treatments after a very intense cleaning program.  

LESSON THREE: Small ozone generators in the 4000 to 7000 mg/hr range often suggest running them for days to get the job done.  This is contraindicated in our test.

LESSON FOUR: Please clean the facility to the best extent possible.  Debris and dirty conditions will impact the overall success as ozone works from the outside in.  

We hear from people who have had problems with an ozone treatment.  If anyone decides to bring in an ozone service, make sure they are certified by the National Ozone Association.  Many ozone services have little or no training on the "Best Practices" of ozone uses except the four-page pamphlet that came with the ozone generator.  A professional service will have trained, experienced workers, doing the work.