Holiday Gift Warning: Avoid "Indoor Smog-making Machines"

Thursday, Jan 7, 2010  |  Updated 6:17 PM EDT
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Holiday Gift Warning: Avoid "Indoor Smog-making Machines"

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SACRAMENTO, California, December 9, 2008 (ENS) - The California Air Resources Board has issued a consumer alert, advising holiday shoppers not to purchase air purifiers or air cleaning devices that intentionally generate ozone.

Some devices that are advertised as "air purifiers," air cleaners, or ozone generators purposely emit large amounts of ozone, the main component of smog.

"Not only are such ozone generators ineffective at cleaning indoor air, but breathing ozone poses serious health risks," warns the Air Resources Board, recommending that these ozone generators not be used.

"Consumers should take care when considering purchase of an air cleaning device," said ARB Chairman Mary Nichols, "Beware of misleading advertisements offering air purifiers that are simply indoor smog-making machines."

Consumers may unknowingly purchase these "ozone generators" from advertisers touting the so-called benefits of "activated oxygen" that can make the air inside your home "as fresh as the outdoors after a thunderstorm," the board said, quoting the ads.

In fact, the board says, "Ozone generators are capable of emitting enough ozone indoors to far exceed outdoor health standards and can intentionally create the equivalent of a Stage 1 smog alert inside your home."

These devices pump a well-known air pollutant into people's homes putting everyone at risk, especially the most vulnerable - the young, elderly and infirm.

The devices can produce levels of ozone that can worsen asthma, cause serious lung inflammation, decrease lung function, and lead to hospitalization for respiratory conditions, emergency room visits for asthma, and increased school absences.

Air-Zone, one of the companies selling devices on the board's long don't buy list has a prominent warning on its website, "IMPORTANT NOTE: THIS OZONE GENERATOR IS MEANT FOR UNOCCUPIED ROOM USE ONLY. THIS MACHINE CANNOT EVER BE USED IN OCCUPIED ROOMS. IT IS FAR TOO STRONG. It has a built in timer so you can run the unit and have it automatically shut itself off long before you return. One hour later all the ozone will be gone."

"IT IS ONLY MEANT AS A SHOCK TREATMENT CLEAN OUT TOOL TO KILL MOLD AND BACTERIA, AND REMOVE SERIOUS ODORS IN UNOCCUPIED AREAS ONLY. ONLY A HIGH POWERED OZONE GENERATOR LIKE THIS CAN TRULY KILL MOLD."

Recently, California regulated the sale of these devices to protect public health. California Assembly Bill 2276 (2006, Pavley), signed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in September 2006, directed the Air Resources Board to develop and adopt a regulation to limit the amount of ozone emitted from indoor air cleaning devices.

The regulation became final on October 18, 2008, and all air cleaning devices sold in California must meet the requirements by October 18, 2010, the full compliance date.

Currently, air cleaners are being tested by the state to assure they do not emit harmful levels of ozone; however, testing of air cleaners by certified laboratories is expected to take up to two years. During this interim time period high ozone-emitting devices can still be sold.

For that reason, the Air Resources Board recommends consumers avoid the purchase of any air cleaner for home or office that intentionally emits ozone.

The best and most effective way to avoid indoor air pollution problems is to remove the sources of the pollution or prevent emissions to begin with, the board advises. Improving fresh-air ventilation is also helpful.

Those still wishing to use an air cleaner should look for models that use high-efficiency pleated filters, known as HEPA filters, or electrostatic precipitators that do not emit high amounts of ozone.

For guidance in selecting air cleaners, including ratings in Consumer Reports articles and ARB's fact sheet entitled "Air Cleaning Devices for the Home: Frequently Asked Questions," click here.

Click here for a list of air cleaners to avoid. The list includes air cleaners sold primarily for residential use, plus some for commercial, in-vehicle, and personal use.

For more about ozone-emitting air cleaners and the Air Resources Board regulation click here or call the ARB indoor air hotline at 916-322-8282.

{Photo: Air-Zone's top of the line ozone generator, price $2899.99, courtesy Air-Zone}

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

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