“OZONE” \ `O-,ZON \ [ From Greek OZON, prp. of OZEIN, to smell – more at odor] (Ca 1884)

1: A TRIATOMIC form of oxygen that is a bluish irritating gas of pungent odor, is formed NATURALLY in the atmosphere by photochemical reaction with solar UV radiation and by lightning, COMMERCIALLY by silent electric discharge, (CORONA), and UV lamps in oxygen or air and is used especially in disinfection, sterilization, and in oxidation and bleaching. 2: Pure and refreshing air. { WEBSTER }


Chem Free       We have to have a supply of O2, which is two atoms of oxygen, in one molecule, to breathe in order to sustain life and burn, (OXIDIZE), the food we consume, so we can sustain life. O2 is produced in nature by photosynthesis in green plant life on land and Blue-Green Algae in water. Plants take in CO2, strip out the carbon atom to form into other compounds to make food and thereby sustain life and grow. It has no use for the O2 after the C is used, so it is passed out as waste, much to our benefit.       When a molecule of O2 is exposed to UV, or Ultraviolet sunlight, the activity levels of the individual atoms will be increased due to the absorbed energy. If the level is high enough, the O2 will split into two free O atoms. The extra energy is released in the form of a photon of lower energy in the blue wavelength, which is why the sky is blue. Most of the oxygen atoms will recombine into more O2. However, some of the O atoms will glom onto an O2 and the result is, of course, O3, OZONE!

       The third atom of oxygen is very loosely bound to the other two O atoms, which results in a very unstable molecule. Consequently an O3 molecule will actively seek something with which the loosely bound third atom can combine and thereby return to a more stable state. Of course O2 is also an oxidizer but not nearly as powerful as the much more unstable O3. In fact ozone is the second most powerful oxidizer falling only after Fluorine. In pure water, ozone is 3125 times as powerful as chlorine, the most commonly used sterilizer. However, ozone will not produce the toxic by-products as does chlorine. Ozone will gradually self-decay to O2, depending on temperature and humidity in as little as a few seconds, to an hour or so and therefore leaves only oxygen as it’s final product.

Ozone is present in large quantities in the upper atmosphere generally at 20 to 30 miles in altitude in what is called the “OZONOSPHERE.” Yes, it is being depleted, but not by FREON, (CFCs). Chlorinated Fluorocarbons are only the vehicle that transports atoms of Chlorine into the upper atmosphere. The CFCs are broken down by UV radiation, which frees the Chlorine atoms which very easily combine with free O atoms and stop the formation of O3. Therefore, chlorine is the villain and CFCs are only the vehicle in which the bad guy travels. Chlorine is separated from common salt in brine and is then combined into many useful and more often than imagined, dangerous commodities. However, CO2 has replaced FREON as the foaming agent in Styrofoam cups. So, as troubling as Styrofoam is in the environment, it is not having an effect on the ozone layer.

The good news is that ozone is constantly being replenished by solar radiation in the upper layers of our atmosphere. The bad news for most of us here at this time is that Chlorine atoms can and will persist for a century or more in the upper atmosphere. Therefore, it is important that we stop creating and using the products that allow this life-threatening depletion to proceed.

If ozone was not present in the atmosphere, no life forms could exist on the surface of the earth. We are protected because almost all of the Sun’s UV radiation is absorbed in constantly creating and destroying O2 and O3 molecules. Therefore, it can be said with certainty that before there was ozone, there were no surface life forms present on the earth. The Blue-Green Algae that was, and still is, in the oceans formed the O2 that came out of solution with the water, rose into the skies and was formed into the shield that allowed and still allows, all of us to be here. The “Stramatolites” formed by the Blue-Green Algae can still be found in living and fossilized forms.

The pungent odor of ozone was first reported by Van Mauren in 1785 in the vicinity of an electrical discharge. In 1840 in Germany, it was reported that the odor resulted from the presence of a previously unknown compound whose structure was confirmed in 1872 as a “TRIATOMIC” allotrope of oxygen. The characteristic odor of ozone in low concentrations is similar to that of new mown hay and is detectable by most people at a level of 0.015 PPM, {Parts Per Million}.


       Commercial applications soon followed as the properties and various reactions of O3 were explored and discovered. Nice, France has used ozone in it’s water treatment system since 1906. More recently, Los Angeles and San Diego have applied ozone treatment as the many hazards of Chlorine by-products have been identified. The city of Orlando, Florida is using the oxidation power of ozone to eliminate Hydrogen Sulfide from water. Hydrogen sulfide, (H2S) is better known for the odor of rotten eggs. In 1980 there were 1100 such water-treatment applications world-wide.       When Chlorine is introduced into water, a large percentage of it is immediately converted into Chloramines which are not effective as a biocide. Chloramines are responsible for the odors wafting through an aquatic facility which uses chlorine as the disinfectant agent. Furthermore, they cause the irritated eyes, dry skin, dry and/or green hair and inflamed mucous membranes experienced by bathers when swimming or relaxing in the heavily chlorinated water of a pool, spa or Jacuzzi.

       CHLORAMINES in water are convert to CHLOROFORM by heat and air agitation. Chloroform is recognized as a very toxic carcinogen and, according to health professionals, may be associated with heart disease, increased blood pressure, coronaries and respiratory problems. Another by-product of water chlorination is the formation of TRIHALOMETHANES, {THMs}, which are formed from partially oxidized organics. THMs are recognized and listed as carcinogens and as such are targeted by the Environmental Protection Agency as the NUMBER ONE CONTAMINANT to control in the newly reinstated Clean Water Act. Studies are proving that THMs are present in the water we use at levels which far exceed established maximum limits.

       Many municipal waste-water treatment facilities are requiring controls on chlorinated waste discharge into sewer mains. As evidence continues to mount concerning the deleterious effects of chlorinated organics in the environment, regulatory agencies will be forced to prevent both residential and commercial operators from discharging chlorinated wastes into our water supplies. Proper treatment with ozone reduces the need for chlorine by 70 to 97%.

        Chlorine is being outlawed in phases in California as of Jan. 1, 1994. At least once a year one will hear of a chlorine gas accident where an entire waterpark or town along a railroad has had to be evacuated due to a chlorine spill of accident. One recent event was at “WET AND WILD” in Orlando, Florida, where over sixty victims of the deadly gas were hospitalized. The CHLORAMINES and TRIHALOMETHANES that leach out of their water can be smelled all over the park. European swim teams will not compete at the Fort Lauderdale “Swimming Hall Of Fame” pool because the water is chlorinated! Of course Chlorine is in and of itself a deadly poison; however, in the entire history of its use and application, OZONE has not caused a single serious injury, much less a fatality.

       Lightning is a sudden discharge of unbelievably high voltage and current levels which produces large amounts of ozone. If you like the fresh clean smell you detect after a strong thunderstorm, give most of the credit for the lack of odors to all that ozone. For that reason we call ozone, “Nature’s Deodorizer”. Organic molecules are easily oxidized by O3 and in most cases reduced to water and carbon dioxide. There’s that oxide again, CO2 , or a carbon atom combined with an O2. In fact, that is the normal state to which ozone reduces the organics it oxidizes.

       In very high concentrations, (percentage levels by weight or volume) ozone is toxic. In enclosed atmospheres with high ozone levels, respirators are necessary. The maximum exposure for an eight hour period is established by the EPA at .12 Milligram per liter (.12 PPM), or 0.05 for 24 hour periods of exposure, in air. Overexposure symptoms are: headache (the first sign of overexposure to ozone), coughing, drowsiness, irritation/inflammation of eyes, nose and throat and loss of appetite. Emergency/First-Aid procedures: Removal of victim from air containing high ozone levels.

       Ozone touches our lives every day, in ways one would never suspect. Yes it does crack our tires and wipers because it is a component of auto exhaust. Copy machines and laser printers also generate large amounts of ozone, as does sunlight at ground level on a bright summer day. Fruit and vegetables are stored and/or shipped in high levels of ozone to prevent spoilage and retard ripening. Eggs are stored in O3 atmospheres to retard spoilage. An egg can be stored at room temperature, for over six months in an O3 rich atmosphere with no detectable change of taste or freshness.


        Bottled water is treated with ozone. Buy a bottle of spring water when it is handy and look at the label. Trace amounts of ozone is the recognized standard of purity of water for human consumption. The bottled water industry requires that an ozone residual be included with the water in the bottle. Some of the ozone equilibrates from the liquid phase into the gas phase where it continues to sterilize the inside of the cap and the container that is not in contact with the water. Breweries also ozonate the brewing water to remove any residuals of taste and odor and to ensure the absence of microorganisms. In similar applications, the inside of bottles and cans are sprayed with water containing an ozone residual for disinfection prior to the introduction of food. The ozone residual disappears as it decomposes into oxygen.       There is another device marketed with much fanfare and hype as a “HEPA Air Filter-Purifier/Ion Generator.” To begin with, “HEPA” type filters require relatively relatively high pressures to operate. If there was a table-top device with a fan or blower with sufficient power to generate air pressure levels high enough to deal with a true HEPA filter’s very high back pressure, you would not be able to stay in the room with the noise it would produce. However, there is usually a small amount of activated charcoal imbedded in the filter to absorb some of the odors for a while and convince one that the device is truly working and there may also be an anti-bacterial coating on the fan side of the filter that will last for a very short time. Ozone kills mold and mildew spores and eliminates organic odors safely and completely.

       Ozone as been successfully applied to marine toilet systems aboard numerous yachts and ships from 37 to over 300 feet in length. The ozone can be injected directly into the holding tank head space and/or atmospheric vent lines. Ozone can also be injected directly into the toilet’s waste line to control odor emanation from any particularly troublesome head.

       Cooling towers associated with HVAC systems have traditionally been treated with a chemical soup to control algae and pathogenic bacteria and prevent scaling and corrosion. It has been fully demonstrated that ozonating cooling towers can totally eliminate algae and microbial growth including “LEGIONELLA PNEUMOPHILA”; remove existing scale and prevent its reforming and reduce corrosion by 50% to 80% over conventional chemical scale and corrosion control!

       Normally Bromine is the only other chemical that needs to be added to the tower water. Small ozone generating systems have also been installed on numerous small to large handlers for A/C units. Simply injecting ozone into either the return or supply side of an air handler will make the associated areas served by that unit have a “Spring Time Fresh” odor. There have been numerous small marine A/C units equipped with ozone generators with exceptionally satisfying results for the owners and crew.

       This has been a very short trip into a complicated field of chemistry and engineering, as well as a small attempt at clearing up a few of the more prevalent misconceptions about ozone. There are more applications for ozone than could possibly be covered here. Furthermore, there is an astonishing amount of misinformation and misconception about ozone. Always consult a professional before moving ahead with any application of ozone.