What Does Ozone Smell Like?

A question that we have received at least a dozen times daily: what does ozone actually smell like? Many people are aware of the danger of ozone, particularly an Ozonator that the EPA warned us about. To alleviate our readers' concern, let's jump into the facts about ozone and how to detect and differentiate the toxic gasses' notorious smell.


What Is Ozone?

Ozone is a natural gas produced by ultraviolet light from the sun. Each molecule consists of 3 oxygen atoms (O3) that are highly reactive. Ozone is also an unstable gas and oxidizer that can kill living cells through chemical processes (substance reduction).

What Does Ozone Smell Like?

The word ozone is derived from the Greek verb ozein, which means “smell.” Ozone has a pungent, chlorine bleach, metallic, or mildly burned wire/ electronic smell that is one of a kind. You could sometimes detect a similar smell after lightning strikes or near a waterfall due to the electrical discharges. Humans could sense a distinctive ozone smell even at a low concentration level of 0.05 ppm. That said, the stronger and sharper an ozone smell, the higher the concentration level in the air.

Are Ozone Machines Safe?

No, it is not safe. An ozone generator is a hazardous machine that should never be used at home. These devices are death traps masked as air purifiers or ionizers to confuse consumers. Federal health agencies like the FDA, EPA, or CARB do not regulate all ozone generators. It is contrary to the manufacturers that claim their Ozonator is approved by a government entity. 

You don’t put away fire with more fire. Ozonator intentionally emits ozone gas to disinfect microorganisms, smoke, and odor at a molecule level. While, in theory, this may work, it often only masks away the smell or numbs your senses. Worse still, you will be left in a room full of ozone that is more dangerous than the existing airborne pollutants. It will take 30 minutes to 3-4 hours for ozone to dissipate, and you will need to evacuate the room for the time being. It is not worth risking yourself and your family’s health.

Ozone Health Effects

It is a known fact that inhaling ozone will have detrimental effects on our respiratory system. Studies have shown if a person is exposed to ozone for up to 8 hours, the following symptoms might occur:

  • Coughing
  • Sore throat
  • Chest pain
  • Wheezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Lung irritation

Long-term exposure to ozone is significantly worst, with irreversible damage. It will lead to respiratory disorders like:

  • Pneumonia (inflammation of airways)
  • Bronchitis (inflammation of the bronchial tubes)
  • Permanent scarring in the lung
  • Decrease in lung capacity
  • Compromise the body’s immune system
  • Aggravate asthma

The Good: Ozone In The Stratosphere

Mother earth's protective barrier. The ozone layer in the stratosphere sits 6 and 30 miles above the earth's surface. It protects living organisms from direct sunlight and ultraviolet radiation that otherwise would put us at risk of burns, cataracts, and skin cancer. This phenomenon is everlasting as the ozone layer will replenish itself over time. Sadly, man-made, artificial chemicals are driving the ozone layer to deteriorate. Scientists referred to these types of chemicals as ozone-depleting substances (ODS). ODS will slowly make its way to the stratosphere and break down from the sun's UV radiation by releasing radicals, chlorine, and bromine. Over time, it will deplete the "good" ozone layer protection.

The Bad: Ozone In The Troposphere

Ozone in the Troposphere zone is an air pollutant because of its harmfulness to living organisms. It will form a chemical reaction between oxide nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). VOCs are colorless toxic gas emitted from vehicles, power plants (fossil fuel combustion), consumer products, and factories. Because it is closer to the surface of the earth, there is a potential risk of us inhaling toxic gases. The danger escalates when bright sunlight, heat, and wind increase the ozone concentration level in the air. People close to mining and the industrial area would be the biggest hit, but the pollution could further spread over hundreds of miles radius.

In short, ozone occurs in 2 layers of the atmosphere: the top stratosphere and the bottom troposphere. In the atmosphere, the ozone layer acts as a shield to protect against the sun's UV rays. At ground level (troposphere), where people live and breathe, ozone is air pollution that triggers chemical reactions with other particulates.

Who's At Risk The Most

No one is excluded from ozone health risks. Children, in particular, are the biggest victim due to their developing immune systems. People who have asthma or elderly are also on the list due to their weakened immune systems. Lastly, people with vitamin C and E deficiencies are also in a higher risk group.

There are safety precautions you could take to reduce ozone exposure. First and foremost, stop using any Ozonator or ozone generator. Indoor ozone contributes around 40% to 75% of the overall exposure. Second, check outdoor air quality from your trusted site. If the outdoor air quality is bad, stay indoors and shut all doors and windows. Substitute outdoor activities with indoor activities like online grocery shopping, food delivery, home exercise, or video call. If there are things you must do outside, consider doing them in the evening or at night when the temperature is much cooler. Lastly, get an air purifier with an activated carbon filter or ozone-free air purifier to help reduce ozone levels at home. If you smell something peculiar but not necessarily intense, it's a good sign the air needs to be filtered. Lastly, stop or replace any gas appliances like a stove, fireplace, or gas heater with electronic appliances. We do not want to contribute further to any more ozone pollution.

Max Fernandez

A loving father and a dedicated reviewer for airfuji.com with more than 1000 air purifiers under his belt. Max Fernandez is also one of the million patients currently suffering from asthma. Feel free to nudge him if you have any questions.
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