Ozone-emitting products may not be good with many household products

Dr. Andrew Weil's comments on ozone-emitting air purifiers help update my 7th grade science fiction story "The Freon."

In that story, the Earth's ozone layer is destroyed. That was written before Al Gore and scientific efforts to save it....and I suppose I had sufficient anxiety about the existential risk then to write about it.

That's the segway for news of a Q&A to integrative medicine doctor Andy Weil about whether air purifiers produce higher ozone levels.

Weil responds:

I recommend HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filters to clear and clean indoor air. These devices work by forcing air through screens containing microscopic pores, removing all but the tiniest airborne particulates. These air purifiers do not emit ozone, an active form of oxygen that, at high concentrations, can irritate lungs and make breathing difficult, particularly for asthma patients.

There are two other types of air purifiers. One type, the "ionic" purifier, uses static charges to remove particles from the air. Some products draw the charged particles back to the unit. With others, the charged particles adhere to walls, floors, tabletops and draperies, which can soil these surfaces. These purifiers also can emit some ozone.

Of more concern is another type of air purifier that relies on a process called "ozonolysis." These units emit much higher levels of ozone and should be avoided. A study at the University of California-Irvine published in the May 2006 issue of the Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association found that in small and poorly ventilated rooms, the ozonolysis devices added to existing ozone levels, raising them to a point where indoor air becomes unhealthy. Researchers tested various air purifiers in homes, offices and cars. In some cases, the ozonolysis machines pushed ozone levels as high as 350 parts per billion. If measured outside, those levels would trigger a Stage 2 Smog Alert in Southern California, something that hasn't happened there since 1988.

Weil also notes that ozone does not render chemicals harmless, and that "many household cleaners and air fresheners may be unhealthy by virtue of the toxic pollutants they emit, particularly when ozone is present in indoor air."

Look at labels carefully and just because it's "natural" doesn't mean it's safe.

Regarding chicken soup for the soul, Weil advises that fish soup may be just as good. For vegetarians the vegetable stock and some carrots and onions will probably do the trick.

Or just buy a neti pot and cleanse the sinuses the old-fashioned way.

By the way, I no longer worry about the ozone layer, though my new book, Web of Souls, tackles other existential risks to humanity and ways that CAM therapies (including spiritual healing and spirituality) may help us shift from apocalypse toward evolution, resurrection, and species maturity.

As almost-President Gore points out, scientific consensus and political will helped humanity move past the ozone crisis that preoccupied me in the 7th grade. (I say 'almost-President' because there is probably an alternate reality or parallel universe where Al Gore is President, or where Phillip K. Dick has written a science fiction book about Al Gore being president.)

Meanwhile, I'll keep Dr. Weil's advice in mind when shopping for air purifiers.
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The Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen offers corporate legal services, litigation consultation, and expertise in health law with a unique focus on holistic, alternative, complementary, and integrative medical therapies. The law firm represents medical doctors, allied health professionals (from psychologists to nurses and dentists) and other clinicians (from chiropractors to naturopathic physicians, massage therapists, and acupuncturists), entrepreneurs, hospitals, and educational organizations, health care institutions, and individuals and corporations.

Michael H. Cohen is Principal in Law Offices of Michael H. Cohen and also President of the Institute for Integrative and Energy Medicine (also known as the Institute for Health, Ethics, Law, Policy & Society), exploring legal, regulatory, ethical, and health policy issues in the judicious integration of complementary and alternative medical therapies (such as acupuncture and traditional oriental medicine, chiropractic, naturopathic medicine, homeopathy, massage therapy, energy healing, and herbal medicine) and conventional clinical care. Michael H. Cohen is author of books on health care law, regulation, ethics and policy dealing with complementary, alternative and integrative medicine, including Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion, Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Legal Boundaries and Regulatory Perspectives (1998), and Beyond Complementary Medicine: Legal and Ethical Perspectives on Health Care and Human Evolution (2000), and Future Medicine: Ethical Dilemmas, Regulatory Challenges, and Therapeutic Pathways to Health Care and Healing in Human Transformation (2003).

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