Until the late 19th century, it was generally believed that ‘bad air’ or miasma caused diseases such as cholera, malaria and even influenza. The theory was dismissed as researchers began to understand more about germs – the micro-organisms that cause disease – and people realised that it was not the bad smells that were making them sick.
But, according to Mike Mair, Design Engineer at Ashdan Electronics, when people were worrying about bad smells, they weren’t too far off the mark.
“When we smell something bad, we are actually smell the bacteria in the air,” he explains. “And, of course, while the smell itself can’t harm you, some of those bacteria can certainly make you sick.”
The idea of using ozone to kill bacteria is not new. As long ago as 1856, ozone was being used to disinfect operating rooms and sterilise surgical instruments. It was used to disinfect wounds in the first world war and it has been used widely to purify water.
Unfortunately the concept of ozone therapy has also entered the realms of pseudoscience, with many unsubstantiated claims of its benefits being made. But when Mair, a man who is recognised as one of the top design engineers in the country, starts talking about the benefits of ozone you know that what he says is based on scientific fact.
“Ozone is a very unstable molecule,” he explains. “It is formed naturally by lightning or manufactured by a similarly high frequency discharge. The oxygen in the air we breathe is O2 – two molecules of oxygen. The high frequency discharge disrupts this bond and forms O3, or ozone – a very unstable compound.”
It is this instability that makes ozone so useful.
“Three’s a crowd if you are an oxygen molecule, so the third one quickly breaks away and goes looking for something else to bond to,” Mair explains. “In an environment such as a smelly public restroom, the bacteria in the air provide a convenient partner.”
For the bacteria, however, that bond is a death sentence. When the oxygen molecule binds to the cell wall of the bacterium, it begins a process of oxydisation which destroys the cell and kills it.
So does that mean that ozone machines are a good thing?
“Yes and no,” is Mair’s guarded reply. Too much ozone is poisonous, so it is important that the amount of ozone which is created stays within a safe saturation level. When choosing a machine, you need to make sure that it is intelligent.
Mair and his team at Natripure use imported machines as the exoskeleton of the products they sell for home use. The industrial machines are fully South African made. In both cases the inner workings contain locally produced microprocessors and other parts, which also include a feedback capability so that they can be calibrated to work perfectly for the environment in which they will be placed. They also include ionisers.
“Often people will buy ionisers, thinking that they are killing bacteria, but all they are doing is releasing negative ions which bind with the positively charged bacteria and, because they are heavier than air, cause them to drop to the ground. The ozone molecules are also heavier than the air so when the bacteria drop, the ozone molecules will bind with them and kill them,” Mair says.
Besides sanitising the air and reducing asthma and allergy, ozone is also useful for purifying water, combating black mould in showers, removing odours from cars and fridges and extending the shelf life of fruit and vegetables.
For more information about Natripure products visit http://www.natripure.co.za/