There is a popular belief that the smell of anything naturally fresh is Ozone. It doesn’t have that much truth in it. But what does Ozone smell like, exactly?
Have you ever smelled the air after it has rained heavily or a thunderstorm has passed? Nevertheless, the smell is unique. Some say it has a tone of chlorine and metal. But there have been no scientifically established idea about its smell.
The unique smell of ozone is an interesting discussion. And in this article, we’ll be discussing about it in detail. So stick with me if you’re curious about the gas that protects the earth.
Can You Smell Ozone?
An inquisitive mind can’t just accept what they see on Google search results. So I dug deeper. We know Ozone probably smells like burnt wire and chlorine. But how do you detect it?
You can’t pinpoint the presence of the gas without some chemical experiment. People can detect Ozone’s smell if the amount of Ozone in the air is around 0.01 mol. It’s the pungent odor of Ozone that makes it distinct.
What Does Ozone Smell Like?
That fresh smell you love just after a thunderstorm has passed or from the clean laundry is all because of that Ozone. The ozone-mixed air feels light instead of heavy which is why you feel that the air is cleaner and fresher.
It started with the Dutch scientist Van Murram when he first noticed this odor during one of these electrostatic generator experiments.
He ingeniously named the odor “the smell of electricity.” In the 19th century, the smell was also how you’d detect a storm coming your way, hence the name “the smell of storms”. It all has to do with the electricity from lightning and water.
In history the smell has been described with other terms as well, such as;
- Burnt wire
- The mixture of electrical spark and water
- Pungent and sweet
- The smell of energy
It’s not humanely possible to pin point and name the smell as ozone gas has no inherent smell properties.
Knowing the different terms of ozone’s smell can help you detect its presence. Breathing in ozone can have bad consequences. But isn’t ozone a good thing?
Yes, but it depends on the location.
Stratosphere: The Good Ozone Layer
We all know about the ozone layer in the stratosphere. Experts consider it the “beneficial ozone layer” that protects the earth from ultraviolet rays.
Troposphere: The Bad Ozone Layer
Ozone is also found at ground level, and this is considered to be the “bad ozone layer.” If it’s the air we’re breathing in, it’s a harmful air pollutant, and many health issues can arise from it. But how can a beneficial gas harm us? You’ll find out shortly.
Sources of Ozone
Ozone forms in the atmosphere at random spots, but since Ozone needs a suitable environment and catalysts to form, it’s mostly found in the topmost layer of our atmosphere, the stratosphere. The top of this layer contains almost 90% of the earth’s Ozone.
But Ozone is also found in different areas on ground level. The record shows that around 30-100 micrograms of Ozone are found per cubic meter on ground level.
In urban areas, the amount may exceed the normal range and go up to 300-800 micrograms per cubic meter.
Are There More Ozone in Urban Areas?
Ozone increases in the city because of pollutants from factories, power plants, chemical plants, and even our cars. These pollutants, in the presence of sunlight, break down and form Ozone.
The level can reach unhealthy levels when the sun is too hot. It may happen in both summer and winter. However, Ozone also dissolves by the same precursor elements it was formed with.
As a result, it’s proven by the experiment that rural areas experience a higher amount of Ozone that persists for a longer period. It’s called The Ozone Paradox.
Why does that happen? Don’t worry; we aren’t going to start a chemistry class.
But if we summarize, urban cities produce more precursor elements like nitrogen monoxide, which is both the cause of ozone formation and degradation. But in rural areas, nitrogen monoxide doesn’t form as much, and as a result, ozone degradation happens much less than in urban areas.
What Happens If I Breathe in Ozone?
It doesn’t matter whether the Ozone around you is formed naturally or through man-made machines. It’s equally harmful to our health. Studies have shown that even the smallest amount of Ozone can harm humans if ingested constantly for a long period.
Exposure to Ozone can cause a few things; here are:
Irritation in Respiratory System
Breathing in ozone-filled air can cause discomfort in your cough, throat, and chest.
Poor Lung Function
It doesn’t only affect the breathing pathways but also the main organ in your respiratory system, the Lung. You will have difficulty in breathing as ozone can neutrally inhibit the inhalation process.
You may also experience spasm in the lung muscles, which can trap air in the alveoli and causes shortness of breath.
Lung Inflammation and Scarring
Ozone inhalation can also induce weakness of the lung. The tissue can also get scarred, but it heals quickly in good condition. It gets worse if it happens frequently.
Aggravates Pre-existing Condition
Any patient with a previous history of lung disease or other respiratory conditions will be affected by ozone inhalation, and the disease can resurface.
People with asthma, pulmonary edema, or bronchus disorders are the most vulnerable group. As Mayoclinic states, asthma will get worse as the Ozone causes spasms in the lung muscles.
How to Reduce Ozone’s Harmful Effects
You can take some measures to make sure that you’re not breathing in ozone-filled air and putting pressure on your lungs.
What can you do?
- Don’t use ozone air purifiers; instead, use HEPA and Activated carbon filter air purifiers.
- Maintain high airflow in your home, especially if you have devices that can cause ozone formation, such as laser printers and old photocopiers.
Can Ozone Be Found Indoors?
It’s a perfectly reasonable thing to ask because the health impacts of Ozone cannot be ignored.
Yes, Ozone can be found in your home, but it’s not likely that Ozone will form inside your home as there is no favorable condition.
Ozone can find its way into your home through air circulation, and it will react with the existing pollutants and other elements in the air.
If you get the smell of Ozone in your home, it’s best to increase the airflow immediately. The highest amount of ozone concentration is found around 12 am and 10 pm.
What’d happen if you breathed in a place with a high ozone concentration? That’s our next talking point.
Is Ozone a Problem Indoors?
It’s true that when entering homes, Ozone has to face a lot of obstacles which results in a lower ozone concentration level inside the home than outside.
But if you stay in a room filled with devices such as photocopiers, laser printers, and a few air purifiers, Ozone can also form in your home. In such conditions, Ozone is as problematic as outside.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are Ozone Air Purifiers Good?
Since we’re talking about Ozone, it’s a good place to bring in the topic of ozone air purifiers that produce Ozone to tackle the polluted and smelly air.
A few companies started to market industrial air purifiers in a smaller form, calling them air purifiers because of Ozone’s disinfectant capabilities. However, Ozone as an air purifier is extremely poor and hazardous to health in general.
These are also known as ozone generators or ionizing air purifiers, as they produce Ozone through ionization.
How do ozone generators remove the smell? When the little machines generate ozone gas, it starts to react with the elements in the air. And since Ozone has a smell of its own, it starts to fill the room with its slightly metallic smell.
This gives you a feeling of freshness; however, it’s all an illusion since it comes with a lot of harmful baggage.
The EPA and other environmental health agencies warn against using these ozone generators in your home as these falsely advertised devices are bad for everyone.
2. Does Ozone Air Purifiers Clean the Air?
However, ozone air purifiers don’t do anything about the dust and dander because it’s not a filter, and you can’t destroy dust through Ozone’s chemical reactions.
So, the verdict is that ozone air purifiers are not worth it. It doesn’t work as air purifiers are supposed to, all the while damaging our respiratory system.
So, what does ozone smell like? You know now that it smells like burnt wires or chlorine. But the freshness you feel in the air is actually harmful. So don’t go and actively breathe in Ozone. While oxygen keeps you alive and well, its 3-atom brother, Ozone, can make you weak and vulnerable to diseases.
Last Updated on December 15, 2022