On Earth Day, Can Ozone Be Good?

16th Apr 2021

Every year on April 22, Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement. In 1970, the first Earth Day gave voice to an emerging public consciousness about our planet’s state, and it served as a catalyst to encourage companies to play a more active role in solving environmental challenges. This includes companies like Ozone Solutions. But how can ozone actually improve the environment?

Earth Day History

Earth Day is now widely regarded as the world’s largest secular observance, with over a billion people participating each year in a day of action to improve human behavior and implement global, state, and local policy changes. As the effects of climate change become more evident every day, the battle for a clean environment is becoming more urgent.

It may be hard to imagine that before 1970, a factory could spew black clouds of toxic smoke into the air or dump tons of toxic waste into a nearby stream, and it was perfectly legal. In the decades leading up to the first Earth Day, Americans were consuming vast amounts of leaded gas through massive and inefficient automobiles and industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of the consequences from either the law or bad press.

Until this point, mainstream America remained largely oblivious to environmental concerns and how a polluted environment threatens human health. How was that possible? Because there were no legal or regulatory mechanisms in place to stop it. There was no EPA, no Clean Air Act, and no Clean Water Act. The individual business was entrusted with monitoring its activities, and air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity.

(summarized from epa.gov and earthday.org)

Since then, there have been numerous efforts to reduce pollution and create a cleaner environment. However, even after more than 50 years, smog and industrial pollution continue to be primary contributors to environmental damage.

Is ozone part of the problem?

You may have heard the “good up high, bad nearby” cliché about ozone. It is a catchy way to remember, and be aware of, the power of ozone. For the conventional way that most people interact with ozone, that cliché is pretty accurate. According to the EPA, “Tropospheric, or ground-level ozone, is not emitted directly into the air but is created by chemical reactions between oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOC). This happens when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources chemically react in the presence of sunlight.” This can then contribute to the creation of smog.

Yikes! So, ozone must always be bad nearby, right? No, not when handled properly and used in appropriate situations.

How can ozone be good for the environment?

Ozone, generated in a controlled environment and with the proper monitoring, can be the most effective and environmentally friendly disinfectant available. Ozone is generated using simple oxygen – usually from ambient air. The oxygen molecule (O2) is separated into individual oxygen atoms (O) that bond with other O2 molecules, forming ozone (O3). The third atom is unstable, so it readily attaches to and oxidizes unwanted organic material. This oxidation process is more effective and efficient than almost any chemical agent. It thoroughly kills a wide variety of damaging pathogens – viruses, bacteria, molds, and cysts. The only byproduct after oxidation is oxygen. Any leftover ozone can be sent through a destruct unit, where it is broken down or "destroyed."

Ozone has numerous practical environmental benefits when compared to other chemical disinfection options, such as chlorine:

  1. Ozone is generated onsite, so there is no environmental risk involved with the transportation or storage unlike chemical options.
  2. When used in aqueous food disinfection applications, ozone does not require an additional wash step to cleanse the chemical. This means reduced water usage.
  3. Ozone will dissipate rather quickly in water – usually 20-30 minutes, depending on the purity and temperature of the water. This ensures that ozonated water is highly unlikely to be introduced into the environment, unlike chemically-treated water, which would need to go through additional steps to be safe – but occasionally isn’t.

Likewise, ozone has other environmental benefits that chemicals can’t match, in both airborne and waterborne applications. First, ozone, when used in a monitored shock treatment application, can eliminate mold spores from difficult to access areas in a building, ultimately improving air quality. Second, the EPA has confirmed that Ozone kills E. coli O157:H7 in drinking water, specifically bottled water, without altering the taste. Finally, research has shown that ozone can also be effective at removing dangerous pharmaceutical residue from groundwater discharge, which otherwise would pose a potentially adverse health impact on fish, wildlife, and other beneficial microorganisms.

As a company that is committed to the environment, we understand how ozone can play a positive role. Our vision is to engineer and manufacture high-quality products that empower people and organizations to clean air, purify water, and disinfect food with chemical-free, environmentally safe technology. We’d like to help you develop a solution, too.

In the meantime, here are some ways you can start to make a difference this Earth Day!