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Indoor air cleaners may release ozone; some certified as safe

July 2, 2009 |  1:59 pm

Ozone can produce breathing problems and lead to smog production. One thing it doesn't do is clean up people's houses. 

Despite the known health risks of ozone, manufacturers of indoor "air cleaners" have intentionally marketed devices that produce high levels of ozone, saying they will improve air quality, according to the California Air Resources Board. These manufacturers are the "snake-oil salesmen of the new millennium," Dimitri Stanich, a spokesman for the board, said today. 

"We're encouraging consumers to recognize the absurdity of trying to use ozone to protect air quality," Stanich said. "It's putting a noxious chemical in the air to remove noxious chemicals."

In 2007, the Air Resources Board -- backed by Assembly Bill 2276 -- called for manufacturers to keep ozone emissions from air purifiers at under 50 parts per billion. Today, the board announced that it has certified 34 models of indoor air purifiers as safe.

Some models, such as ionic air purifiers, may produce small amounts of ozone, while models that use filters produce no ozone. 

But manufacturers can still sell the old models until October 2010. To identify which models are certified as safe, some manufacturers may put a sticker on the box saying it meets state standards. Consumers can find a list of the certified models on the ARB website.  

"These models are safe for sustained indoor use," ARB Chairman Mary D. Nichols said in a  statement. "Consumers should be aware that distributors have until late 2010 to sell uncertified models. Some distributors are still pressing the absurd notion that ozone cleans the air and is safe for humans to breathe. Look for 'ARB Certified' labels on packaging and know that certification means no harmful amounts of ozone."

-- Amy Littlefield