Ozone found in indoor environments reacts with human skin oils to produce chemicals that irritate the skin and lungs according to researchers in Austria and the United States. In a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science Armin Wisthaler of the Leopold Franzens University in Austria and Charles Weschler of Rutgers University found that the ozone commonly found in indoor environments reacts with oils on the skin to produce VOC’s such as ketones and dicarbonyls.
Wisthaler and Weschler performed tests with human subjects in a test chamber (28.5 m3) with ozone levels of about 15 parts per billion. This level is far below recommended levels of 50 parts per billion but it was still sufficient to react with squalene and unsaturated fatty acids found on the skin to produce the troubling compounds. Just one individual in an office would be sufficient to reduce ozone concentrations by up to 25%.
Weschler is well known for his work with terpene/ozone reactions and other aspects of indoor air chemistry. His prior studies have shown the dangers of introducing scented compounds to indoor environments. He has also studied the effects of ozone reactions on various surfaces such as carpeting, paints, and plastics . This is the first study to focus on chemical reactions with humans. This study emphasizes the importance of reducing indoor ozone concentrations. Weschler is a strong believer in the use of carbon filters to reduce ozone in ventilation air.
The tests did not determine a direct link between the compounds and illness symptoms, only that the compounds were created by ozone reacting with skin oils. The researchers emphasized that these findings should lead to further studies including toxicity tests.