OxyFile #345

Ozone: Life-Threatening Pollutant or Powerful Healing Agent?

Nathaniel Altman
author of Oxygen Healing Therapies

It's summer in New York City and the National Weather Service has 
posted another ozone advisory. A grayish haze hangs over the 
entire metropolitan area, and the air tastes gritty and stale. 
Young children and adults with lung problems are told to stay 
indoors, because ozone can aggravate allergies, bronchitis, asthma 
and other health problems. That's because when combined with 
carbon dioxide, peroxyacetyl nitrate and other gases (caused by 
auto exhaust, factories and power plants), ozone becomes a 
dangerous pollutant. It can not only damage the sensitive surfaces 
of the respiratory tract and the lungs, but also corrodes 
buildings and monuments. It can kill the leaves of the trees and 
also damages crops. In large urban centers like Los Angeles, Sao 
Paulo and Mexico City, ozone-laden smog has become a major threat 
to human health. It is no wonder why so many people have negative 
feelings about it.

Yet at a clinic on West 72nd Street in the heart of Manhattan, the 
treatment room is filled with patients who are paying up to $100 
to have ozone and oxygen infused into their veins. They believe 
that ozone will help heal them of cancer, heart disease, candida, 
HIV-related problems and a host of other diseases. Over ten 
million people have been treated in Europe with ozone, and many 
swear by its' safety and effectiveness.

There are few elements that have been as controversial as ozone, 
and none that have created such a medical paradox: how can a gas 
be both dangerous to health as a pollutant, yet can also be used 
to effectively treat some of humanity's most threatening diseases?

Ozone: The Basics

Ozone is an elemental form of oxygen occurring naturally in the 
Earth's atmosphere, it surrounds the Earth at an altitude of 
between 50,000 and 100,000 feet.1 As a pale blue gas that 
condenses to a deep blue liquid at very low temperatures, it is 
created in nature when ultraviolet energy causes oxygen atoms to 
temporarily recombine in groups of three. Ozone is also formed by 
the action of electrical discharges on oxygen, so it is often 
created by thunder and lightning. When we go outside after a 
thunderstorm, the air seems to smell like freshly-mown hay. This 
is due to the small quantities of ozone generated by the storm. 
Ozone is also produced commercially in ozone generators, which 
involve sending an electrical discharge through a specially-built 
condenser containing oxygen. Because it is made up of three atoms 
of oxygen, ozone is known chemically as O3. The newly-formed 
molecule is quick to react with other substances.

When occurring in the upper atmosphere, ozone forms a protective 
layer that absorbs much of the sun's ultraviolet radiation, which 
can cause mutation, cancer, sunburn, immunosuppression and other 
problems. If it were not for the ozone layer, the survival of 
animal and plant life on this planet would be impossible. The 
depletion of the ozone layer by the use of chloroflourocarbons 
(CFC's), mostly released into the atmosphere by refrigerators, air 
conditioner and aerosol containers is of grave concern to 
scientists and physicians the world over. In addition to the 
health problems just mentioned, ultraviolet radiation has also 
been cited as a factor in poor crop growth, such as certain 
species of grains. After many years of study and a considerable 
degree of procrastination on the part of industry and government, 
efforts are finally being made to phase out the use of CFC's 
completely within the next few decades.

However, ozone becomes a pollutant in the lower atmosphere when 
hydrocarbons (like carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide) from 
vehicular exhaust and other sources combine with ozone in 
sunlight, creating photochemical smog. As a result, new and often 
highly corrosive pollutants are formed. The number of possible 
chemical reactions that can occur when ozone is combined with 
these oxides can reach into the hundreds. The effects of ozone-
laden smog has been linked to acid rain, a variety of lung-related 
diseases and the oxidation of buildings and monuments, especially 
in cities where smog is frequent. Scientific studies in this 
country have emphasized the negative effects of ozone on 
breathing. This may be one reason why physicians and others feel 
that ozone is not only medically useless, but is a dangerous 
substance to take into the body under any circumstances. However, 
the value of ozone cannot be dismissed so easily.

Properties and Uses

First "discovered" until 1840 by the German chemist Christian 
Frederick Schonbein at the University of Basel in Switzerland, 
ozone gas was used for the first time to disinfect operating rooms 
in 1856, with the first water treatment plant to use ozone to 
purify municipal water supplies built in Monaco in 1860. Purifying 
water with ozone simple: a small amount of ozone is added to 
oxygen and bubbled through the water. Not only does it kill 
viruses and bacteria, but it removes the microorganisms that cause 
bad taste and odor in the water as well.

Ozone is powerful oxidizer that can kill a wide variety of 
viruses, bacteria and other toxins. It also oxidizes phenolics (a 
poisonous compound of methanol and benzine), pesticides, 
detergents, chemical manufacturing wastes and aromatic (smelly) 
compounds more rapidly and effectively than chlorine, yet without 
its harmful residues.2 For this reason, ozone has become the 
element of choice to disinfect and purify drinking water and 
wastewater through a wide variety of applications.

1. Municipal water treatment.

More than a hundred different viruses that are excreted in human 
feces can be found in contaminated drinking water. Viruses like 
those associated with hepatitis infect thousands of people a year, 
and survive for a long period of time in potable water. As a 
potent virucide, ozone is seen as an effective alternative to 
chlorine, which (in addition to leaving undesirable tastes and 
odor) may yield chloroform and other compounds that are 
potentially carcinogenic.3 According to The Encyclopedia of 
Chemical Technology:

"Chlorination as it is practiced in potable-water treatment plants 
cannot adequately remove viruses to an acceptable level. The 
complete control of viruses by ozone at low dosage levels is well 

As a potent oxidizer, ozone kills bacteria by rupturing the cell 
wall. Among the harmful microorganisms that ozone can oxidize are 
Escherichia coli, Streptococcus fecalis, Mycobacterium 
tuberculosum, Bacillus megatherium (spores) and Endamoeba 
histolytica. The Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology reports that:

"Ozone displays an all-or-nothing effect in terms of destroying 
bacteria. This effect can be attributed to the high oxidation 
potential of ozone. Ozone is such a strong germicide that only a 
few micrograms per liter are required to measure germicidal 

Today more than 2500 municipalities around the world purify their 
water supplies with ozone, including Los Angeles, Paris, Montreal, 
Moscow, Kiev, Singapore, Brussels, Florence, Turin, Marseilles, 
Manchester and Amsterdam.

Ozone has also been used to purify the water in public swimming 
pools since 1950. During the Olympic Games held in Los Angeles 
during the summer of 1984, the European teams insisted that the 
water in the swimming pools be treated with ozone (as opposed to 
chlorine) or they would not participate in the events.

2. Ozone in Industry

Ozone is used by the bottling industry to disinfect the inside of 
soda and beer bottles. The ozone later disappears as it decomposes 
to oxygen. Brewers also use ozone to remove any residual bad taste 
and odor from the water used in beer production. Ozone is also 
utilized by the pharmaceutical industry as a disinfectant, and in 
the manufacture of electrical components to oxidize surface 
impurities. Ozone concentrations of 1 to 3 parts per million are 
used to inhibit the growth of molds and bacteria in stored foods 
like eggs, meat, vegetables and fruits.6

3. Wastewater Pollution Control

Ozone can break down industrial wastes like phenol and cyanide so 
that they become biodegradable. It is often utilized to oxidize 
mining wastes, wastes from the photographic industry, and the 
oxidation of harmful compounds like heavy metals, ethanol and 
acetic acid.7

Ozone is also used to disinfect municipal wastewater, and to clean 
up lakes and streams that have become polluted by sewage and other 
pollutants. Unlike chlorine, ozone can clean up a lake or stream 
without killing the resident animal life nor leaving potentially 
harmful chemical residues in the ecosystem.

4. Air and odor treatment

In the United States, over 100 ozone generators are used by both 
municipalities and private companies to remove noxious odors from 
treated sewage. Sewage contains high amounts of foul-smelling 
chemicals like sulfides, amines and olefins. Ozone gas does not 
mask their odors: it oxidates these compounds and renders them 

Ozone is also used to reduce odors in rendering plants, paper 
mills, compost operations, underground railways, tunnels and 
mines. The food industry uses minute amounts of ozone to treat 
odors in dairies, fish processing plants, and slaughterhouses. 6, 

5. Medical Ozone

After the turn of the century, interest began to focus on the uses 
of ozone in medical therapy. The Berlin physician Albert Wolff 
first utilized ozone to treat skin diseases in 1915, and the 
German Army used ozone extensively during World War I to treat a 
wide variety of battle wounds and other infections.

However, it was not until 1932 that ozone was seriously studied by 
the scientific community, when ozonated water was used as a 
disinfectant by Dr. E.A. Fisch, a German dentist. One of his 
patients was the surgeon Erwin Payr, who immediately saw the 
therapeutic possibilities of ozone in medical therapy. Dr. Payr, 
along with the French physician P. Aubourg, was the first medical 
doctor to apply ozone gas through rectal insufflation to treat 
mucous colitis and fistulae. In 1945, Payr pioneered the method of 
injecting ozone intravenously for the treatment of circulatory 

The first physician to treat cancer with ozone was Dr. W. Zable in 
the late 1950's, followed by Drs. P.G. Seeger, A. Varro, and H. 
Werkmeister. During the next twenty years, hundreds of German 
physicians began using ozone in their practice to treat a wide 
variety of diseases (both alone and as a compliment to traditional 
medical therapy) through a number of applications, which we will 
discuss later on. Horst Kief, M.D. is believed to be the first 
doctor to use ozone therapy to successfully treat patients 
infected with HIV.

Today some 8000 licensed health practitioners (including medical 
doctors, homeopathic physicians and naturopaths) in Germany use 
ozone in their practices, while some 15,000 practitioners use 
ozone on the European continent, either alone or as a compliment 
to other therapies. While considered "experimental" by North 
American scientists, the medical uses of ozone are well-known and 
well-established outside the United States.

Research in Medical Ozone

Since the end of World War II, literally hundreds of laboratory 
and clinical studies in the medical uses of ozone have been done, 
primarily in Europe, and their findings have been published in a 
variety of scientific and medical journals. Most have been 
published in German, with the exception of those of findings first 
reported at international medical conferences sponsored by the 
International Ozone Association, which were presented in English. 
At the present time, the bulk of scientific research in the 
medical uses of ozone are being undertaken in Cuba, Russia and 
Germany, where researchers receive the cooperation and support of 
the government and major universities. Research is going on to a 
far lesser extent in the United States, France, Italy, Mexico and 

However, one recent Canadian study received world-wide attention. 
Published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, it showed 
that ozone kills the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the 
hepatitis and herpes viruses and other agents in the blood used 
for transfusion. The article's author added: "The systemic use of 
ozone in the treatment of AIDS could not only reduce the virus 
load but also possibly revitalize the immune system."8 

Some of the most exciting research in ozone therapy is taking 
place in two unlikely countries: Russia and Cuba. It has been 
approved by the health ministries of both countries and is fast 
becoming part of the medical mainstream.

Why are the Cubans and Russians so interested in ozone? Citizens 
of both countries have enjoyed socialized medicine for decades, so 
private drug manufacturers and private hospitals and clinics have 
traditionally played a small or nonexistent role in determining 
the direction of the health care system. As mentioned before, 
ozone cannot be patented, it is extremely cheap to produce, and 
can be used effectively in a wide range of therapeutic 
applications. In countries like the United States, where large 
drug companies are directly or indirectly involved in all medical 
research and lobby to influence governmental policy, there is 
simply no interest in researching the possibilities of ozone 
therapy. Yet in countries where the profit motive is absent from 
health care, physicians, chemists and other researchers 
traditionally enjoy both government support and funding for their 

Medical Applications

The applications for ozone in medical therapy were first 
documented in European medical journals in the mid-1930's. Since 
that time, over 1000 articles have been published in medical and 
scientific journals, mostly in German, Russian and Spanish.

Used primarily to kill viruses, destroy bacteria and eliminate 
fungi, ozone produces a number of important benefits in the human 
body, including the oxygenation of blood, improved blood 
circulation, and stimulating the oxygen- producing facility in 
human tissues. It is also an important immunoregulator. For these 
reasons, the range of human health problems that can respond 
favorably to ozone therapy is quite broad. According to Drs. 
Siegfried Rilling and Renate Viebahn in their book The Use of 
Ozone in Medicine, physicians have used ozone therapy in the areas 
of angiology (blood vessels), dermatology, (including allergology 
and proctology), gastroenterology, gerontology, intensive care, 
gynecology, neurology, odontology (dental medicine), oncology, 
orthopedics, proctology, radiology, rheumatology, surgery 
(including vascular surgery) and urology.9 As the Canadian report 
cited earlier indicated, ozone has been proven to effectively 
purify human blood supplies.

According to the Europe-based Medical Society for Ozone 10 (with 
branches in Germany, Austria, Italy and Switzerland) and the 
National Center for Scientific Research in Cuba 11, 12, 13, 
physicians are currently treating the following diseases with 
different forms of ozone therapy:

Diseases Treated with Ozone Therapy 10
Allergies (hypersensitivity)
Anal fissures
Cancerous tumors
Cerebral sclerosis
Circulatory disturbances
Cirrhosis of the liver
Climacterium (menopause)
Corneal ulcers11
Decubitus (bedsores)
Fungal diseases
Gastro-doudenal ulcers11
Gastro-intestinal disorders
Herpes (simplex and zoster)
Mucous colitis
Nerve-related disorders
Parkinson's disease
Raynaud's disease
Retinitis pigmentosa11
Rheumatoid arthritis11
Scars (after radiation)
Senile dementia11
Sepsis control11
Sudeck's disease
Ulcus cruris (open leg sores)
Wound healing disturbances

Ozone in the Dentist's Office

Since one of the pioneers in ozone therapy was a dentist, it is 
important to mention that ozone has an important place in dental 
practice as well. According to the German dentist Fritz Kramer, 
ozone, such as in the form of ozonated water, can be used in the 
following ways:

1. As a powerful disinfectant.
2. In its ability to control bleeding.
3. In its ability to cleanse wounds in bones and soft tissue
4. By improving the local supply of oxygen to the wound area, 
   ozone can improve healing.
5. Ozonated water can increase temperature in the area of the 
   wound, and this improve the metabolic processes related to 

Dr. Kramer points out that ozonated water can be used in a number 
of different ways:

1. As a mouth rinse (especially in cases of gingivitis, 
   paradentosis, thrush or stomatitis);
2. as a spray to cleanse the affected area, and to disinfect oral 
   mucosa, cavities and in general dental surgery;
3. As an ozone/water jet to clean cavities of teeth being capped, 
   receiving root canal therapy, and in treating painful 
   gingivitis and stomatitis.14

How is Ozone Therapy Applied?

Over the past sixty years, over a dozen methods have been 
developed in the application of ozone in medical therapy. In most 
cases, tiny amounts of ozone are added to pure oxygen (usually 
consisting of 0.05 parts of ozone to 99.95 parts of oxygen for 
internal use and 5 parts of ozone to 95 parts of oxygen for 
external applications). The exact amount used is determined on a 
case by case basis, as physicians have found that not enough ozone 
can be ineffective, while too much ozone can be immuno-
suppressive. At the present time, there are eight simple methods 
and one highly complex method of ozone therapy that are used in 
medical practice.

1. Direct Intra-arterial and intravenous application

An ozone/oxygen mixture is slowly injected into an artery or vein 
with a hypodermic syringe. This method is used primarily for 
arterial circulatory disorders. According to Gerard V. Sunnen, 
M.D., "Due to accidents produced by too rapid introduction of the 
gas mixture into the circulation, this technique is now rarely 

2. Rectal insufflation

First pioneered by Payr and Aubourg in the 1930's, a mixture of 
ozone and oxygen is introduced through the rectum and absorbed 
into the body through the intestine. Used for a wide variety of 
health problems, this method is considered one of the safest. In a 
typical treatment for ulcerative colitis, for example, 75 
micrograms of ozone per milliliter of oxygen are used (treatment 
begins with 50ml of oxygen which can be increased slowly to 500 ml 
per treatment) 16 While administered under medical supervision in 
Germany, Russia and Cuba, a growing number of private individuals 
in the United States use this method for self-treatment for 
cancer, HIV-related problems and other diseases.

3. Intramuscular injection

A small amount of an ozone and oxygen mixture (up to 10 ml) are 
injected into the patient (usually in the buttocks) like a normal 
injection would be. This method is commonly used to treat 
allergies and inflammatory diseases. Intramuscular injections are 
sometimes utilized as an adjunct to cancer therapies in Europe.

4. Major and minor autohemotherapy

Used since the 1960's, minor autohemotherapy involves removing a 
small amount (usually 10 ml) of the patient's blood from a vein 
with a hypodermic syringe. The blood is then treated with ozone 
and oxygen, and given back to the patient with an intramuscular 
injection. Thus the blood and ozone becomes a type of auto-vaccine 
given to the patient that is derived from their own cells, thus 
forming a unique vaccine that can be very specific and effective 
in treating the patient's health problem.

Major autohemotherapy calls for the removal of between 50-100 ml 
of the patient's blood. Ozone and oxygen are then bubbled into the 
blood for several minutes, and then the ozonated blood is re-
introduced into a vein. These methods have been used successfully 
to treat a wide variety of health problems, including herpes, 
arthritis, cancer, heart disease and HIV-infection. It is probably 
the most commonly-used type of ozone therapy today.

5. Ozonated water

This method calls for ozone gas to be bubbled through water, and 
the water is used externally to bathe wounds, burns and slow-
healing skin infections. It is also used as a disinfectant by 
dentists who perform dental surgery. In Russia, physicians are 
using ozonated water to irrigate body cavities during surgery. In 
both Russia and Cuba, ozonated water is used to treat a wide
variety of intestinal and gynecological problems, including 
ulcerative colitis, duodenal ulcers, gastritis, diarrhea and 

6. Intra-articular injection
In this method, ozone gas is bubbled through water and the mixture 
is injected directly between the joints. It is used primarily by 
physicians in Germany, Russia and Cuba to treat arthritis, 
rheumatism and other joint diseases.

7. Ozone bagging

This non-invasive method uses a specially-made plastic bag that is 
placed around the area to be treated. An ozone/oxygen mixture is 
pumped into the bag and the mixture is absorbed into the body 
through the skin. Ozone bagging is primarily recommended for 
treating leg ulcers, gangrene, fungal infections, burns and slow-
healing wounds.

Ozone in a "sauna bag" (which leaves the head uncovered) is now 
being used to treat more generalized health problems, such as HIV-
infection. Typically the patient would take a arm shower and get 
into the bag. Pure oxygen mixed with small amounts of ozone are 
then pumped into the bag for a period of twenty to thirty minutes, 
making contact with all skin surfaces. The skin absorbs the ozone. 
According to Dr. Sunnen: "Surprisingly, the mixture is able to 
penetrate far enough into the capillary networks to raise blood 
oxygen pressure. Presumably then, ozone is able to exert its 
biochemical influence."18

8. Ozonated oil

Used primarily to treat skin problems, ozone gas is added to olive 
oil and applied as a balm or salve for long-term, low-dose 
exposure. Other bases (such as sunflower oil) for salves and 
creams have been developed in Cuba and are applied externally to 
treat a wide variety of problems including fungal infections 
(including athlete's foot), fistulae, leg ulcers, bed sores, 
gingivitis, herpes simplex, hemorrhoids, vulvovaginitis, bee 
stings, insect bites, acne and other skin-related problems.

The Cubans are also using capsules filled with ozonized oil to 
treat gastro-duodenal ulcers, gastritis, giardia and peptic 

9. Inhalation of ozone
The lungs are the organs most sensitive to ozone. Physicians who 
use medical ozone warn that inhaling ozone into the lungs can 
bring about alterations in the density of the lung tissue, can 
damage delicate lung membranes, irritate the epithelium [the 
surface layer of mucus] in the trachea and bronchi, and can lead 
to emphysema. They caution users that no ozone should escape into 
the room in which it is being used. Modern medical ozone 
generators are specially designed so that the accidental escape of 
ozone gas cannot take place. Dr. Stephen A. Levine, the co-author 
of Antioxidant Adaptation, cautions people against using 
commercial air purifiers which generate small amounts of ozone to 
clean the air, since ozone should not be inhaled.

Having said this, it is important to point out that in Russia, 
tiny amounts of ozone are being added to oxygen for short-term 
therapeutic inhalation in certain cases. This has been done with 
patients suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning, and doctors 
have been impressed with the results. No adverse effects were 

Although ozone can be dangerous when mishandled, ozone therapy is 
safe when administered by a qualified practitioner at established 
protocols. A 1982 German study of 384,775 patients (5,779,238 
treatments) documented only a 0.0007% rate of adverse side 
effects.21 However, some physicians believe that direct IV 
application of ozone is dangerous.

We need to develop a deeper awareness of the importance of ozone, 
and learn to view it in a broader perspective. On one hand, we 
must work to reduce the pollutants which combine with ozone in the 
lower atmosphere by conserving the energy we use at home and at 
work, buying products that can be repaired instead of replaced, 
using our cars less, walking and riding bicycles more, and taking 
public transportation whenever possible will help. At the same 
time, we must support the use of alternatives to the many 
dangerous chemicals that destroy the fragile ozone later which is 
rapidly being depleted.

At the same time, we can educate ourselves in the therapeutic use 
of medical ozone. As an inexpensive gas that is readily available, 
simple to produce, and safe to use, the potential of medical ozone 
in both preventing and treating disease is enormous. Its' use can 
not only help solve the nation's health care crisis (by providing 
cheap and safe preventative as well as crisis care), but can help 
eliminate much of the suffering brought about by the side effects 
of chemotherapy, surgery and other invasive medical procedures.


1 Chemical Technology: An Encyclopedic Treatment, Vol. 1, (New 
York: Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1968) p. 79.
2 Chemical Technology, op. cit. pp. 82-3.
3 McGraw-Hill Encyclopedia of Science & Technology, Vol. 12, 6th 
ed. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1987) p. 610
4 Othmer, Kirk, Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology, Vol. 16, 3rd 
ed. (New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1981) p. 705
5 Ibid., p. 704
6 Chemical Technology: An Encyclopedic Treatment, op. cit. p. 82
7 Othmer, Kirk, op. cit., p. 710
8 Baggs, A.C., "Are Worry-Free Transfusions Just a Whiff of Ozone 
Away?" Canadian Medical Association Journal, April 1, 1993, p. 
9 Rilling, S. and Viebahn, R., The Use of Ozone in Medicine 
(Heidelberg: Haug Publishers, 1987) p. 17
10 Ibid., pp. 177-8
11 Proceedings of the First Iberolatinamerican Congress on Ozone 
Application (Havana: National Center for Scientific Research, 
12 Revista CENIC, Vol. 20, No 1-2-3, 1989
13 Menendez, Silvia, Ozomed/Ozone Therapy (Havana: National Center 
for Scientific Research, 1993)
14 Kramer, Fritz, "Ozone in the Dental Practice", Medical 
Applications of Ozone (Norwalk, CT: International Ozone 
Association, Pan American Committee, 1983) pp. 258-65
15 Sunnen, Gerard, "Ozone in Medicine: Overview and Future 
Direction", Journal of Advancement in Medicine, Vol. 1, No. 3, 
Fall 1988.
16 Rilling, S., and Viebahn, R., op. cit., pp. 136-7
17 Proceedings of the First Iberolatinamerican Congress on Ozone
Applications, op. cit.
18 Sunnen, Gerard, op. cit.
19 Gorbunov, S.N. et. al., "The Use of Ozone in the Treatment of 
Children Suffered Due to Different Catastrophies", Ozone in 
Medicine: Proceedings Eleventh Ozone World Congress (Stamford, CT: 
International Ozone Association, Pan American Committee, 1993) pp. 

c 1995 by Nathaniel Altman