Makers of ozone generators often target home users with claims that the devices reduce allergens such as dust, smoke, pollen, germs, and mold using "highly activated oxygen" or "super oxide ions," leaving the fresh scents of thunderstorms and waterfalls in their place. Two companies, Biotech Research and EcoQuest, go much further in their ads.
The $850 EcoQuest Fresh Air uses "exclusive 'Space Certified' " technology "used to scrub the air inside spacecraft," ads say. BioTech Research says its $230 EdenPure Area's technology is "used by the federal government to purify air in the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station." And ABC Radio broadcaster Paul Harvey, who claims to use the EdenPure, describes it as "the best air purifier ever created by the hand of man" in an ad.
But our tests found that even at the ozone generators' low everyday settings, their ozone production quickly exceeded the 50 parts per billion (ppb) FDA limit for medical devices. Purifiers aren't considered medical devices by the FDA. Ozone concentrations in our test room measured about 650 to 990 ppb for the EdenPure, depending on the setting. The EcoQuest produced about 110 to 350 ppb at its normal and high settings and up to 4,300 ppb at its "away" settings, which the company says to use only when you and your pets aren't home.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that relatively low levels of ozone can cause chest pain and shortness of breath. Ozone may also worsen asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections. The EPA regulates outdoor ozone levels, but there is no federal agency that regulates indoor levels or air purifiers. As we went to press, California banned the sale of ozone generators for most uses.
Because both of these ozone generators produced very high amounts of ozone and have no way to automatically control its concentration in the air, we consider them Not Acceptable. They were also poor at removing dust and smoke in the air.
About those "space" claims: We sent NASA the ads, and spokeswomen told us that the space shuttle and the space station life-support and environmental-control systems have always relied on filtration to purify the air, not ozone.