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An ozone generator is a device that produces ozone gas, which is then released into an area containing either air or water to kill microorganisms and remove odors. These devices are used for various industrial purposes, for example, to disinfect hospital laundry, deodorize smoke-damaged objects, kill insects in stored grain, and decontaminate rooms used for surgery. For residential use, ozone generators are commonly marketed for odor removal and as a way to improve indoor air quality. Since the 1990s, health authorities in Canada and the U.S. advice against the residential use of ozone generators, because of the potential health hazards related to ozone. It is not advisable to use an ozone generator in areas where there are pets or people, but their use under carefully controlled conditions in unoccupied spaces is considered acceptable by health authorities.
Ozone is a very unstable gas that rapidly decays into oxygen and cannot be stored or transported. Instead, it has to be produced by an ozone generator on site when it is to be used. Even in low concentrations, ozone can be harmful to plants and to the respiratory system in both humans and animals.
At high concentrations, ozone can kill microorganisms like bacteria, fungus and mold. It can also deodorize objects and indoor areas. However, many scientific studies suggest that the concentrations of ozone needed to efficiently kill microorganisms and remove odors are harmful to humans and should only be used in uninhabited spaces and under professional supervision.
Manufacturers of these devices claim that an ozone generator can be safely used in the home to clean and purify air, eliminate odors, and get rid of mold and fungus. Some health authorities maintain that many ozone generators sold for residential use are capable of producing ozone levels that can cause health problems, such as lung damage, chest pains, coughing, and throat irritation. Health Canada and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency advise against using an ozone generator in the home.
An ozone generator uses either the corona discharge method or the UV-light method to produce ozone. The corona discharge method is commonly used in ozone generators sold as air cleaners and odor removers. It works by applying an electrical current to an ozone generating material, electrically charging the air inside the device and turning it into ozone. The UV-light method uses a specific kind of ultraviolet light to produce ozone and is commonly used to purify water in spas and swimming pools.