Do UV Air Purifiers Create Ozone? The Hard Truth
Stratospheric ozone is an occurring gas formed naturally through the atmospheric chemistry of sun ultraviolet (UV) radiation with molecular oxygen (O2). While ozone may be harmless up in the stratosphere, when it descends to ground level, it can pose a serious threat to living beings, especially if we’re exposed to it for extended periods of time. Despite being classified as a pollutant by numerous health organizations, certain air purification methods actually produce ozone as their primary means of cleaning the air or as byproducts. It just goes to show that sometimes what we think of as “clean” isn’t necessarily good for us.
Studies have indicated that short-term exposure to ozone can lead to adverse health effects, and cities with elevated ambient ozone levels have reported increased mortality rates. According to a review of ozone’s effects on health, acute exposure to ozone may result in changes in lung capacity, flow resistance, epithelial permeability, and reactivity to broncho-active challenges. Repetitive daily exposures over weeks can exacerbate and prolong these transient effects.
Do UV Air Purifiers Produce Ozone?
For a few decades, UV air purifiers have been a widely used technology that can be seen in various settings such as hospitals, scientific labs, schools, factories, and households. These air purifiers operate by emitting short-wavelength ultraviolet light, which damages the reproductive DNA of airborne pathogens and microorganisms like viruses, bacteria, and mold, effectively inactivating them.
Here’s the truth. Most UV air purifiers do not release a significant level of ozone byproducts. To produce a high concentration of ozone, UV lamps need to emit UV-215 or shorter wavelengths, which can ionize oxygen and nitrogen to form ozone. However, most UV lamps in air purifiers are UV-254 wavelengths, which are designed specifically for “germicidal” or “advanced oxidation” purposes rather than ozone production.
That said, it’s always a good idea to check on the specifications of any air purifier you’re considering investing in to ensure that it is genuine and does not produce high levels of ozone. This is especially important if you or anyone in your household has respiratory issues that could be exacerbated by ozone exposure.
Another particular point to note is that UV-C purifiers are ineffective against large particles and smoke. It requires a long duration of exposure with high light intensity to work efficiency. Combining UV and HEPA would be much more effective in removing dust, hair, and other large particulates.
Overall, UV air purifiers can safely eliminate airborne allergens to improve indoor air quality for home use without producing harmful levels of ozone. There is no hidden danger to worry about, and arguably the better option over an ionizer. By being mindful of the type of UV light used and any additional filters or catalysts included, you can select a safe UV air purifier that meets your needs and helps keep your indoor air clean and healthy.
UV air purifiers are beneficial to our health despite holding a few drawbacks. If you want an ozone-free air purifier that does not emit ozone, here are some alternative options for you:
- HEPA Filters - Exceptionally efficient at capturing tiny, non-smoke particles from the air.
- Carbon Filters - Absorb volatile organic compounds (VOCs), odors, and other gaseous pollutants from the air.
- PECO - Photo Electrochemical Oxidation (PECO) is an upgraded version of the PCO process. PECO generates safe concentrations of hydroxyl radicals, which eradicate air pollutants without producing new ones. PECO uses UV-A light which is deemed safer than UV-C light. As a matter of fact, PECO has been shown to lower ozone levels in the air by converting it into breathable oxygen.