Ozone is an unstable molecule of oxygen that occurs naturally in nature. As the most powerful commercially available disinfectant available, it has been used in a wide range of industries, including water treatment, food processing, and drinking water.

History Of Ozone Regulations

Initially considered a “chemical curiosity” after its discovery in the 18th century, ozone was quickly recognized as having useful properties. In 1906, in Nice, France, ozone was used to treat drinking water. Following the expanding use of industrial chemicals after World War I, ozone took a back seat to chlorine, but it proved to be an effective alternative to chlorine for various applications.

After the introduction of contaminated bottled water in the early 1970s, ozone technology gained traction in the 1970s with increased attention on pollution. In 1973, the International Ozone Association (IOA) was established. Its mission is to provide a clearinghouse for ozone technology and ozone application and regulation information by gathering engineers, scientists, manufacturers and industry professionals.  

There are a variety of industries that use ozone today, such as drinking water, laundry, food processing, agriculture, water treatment, cooling towers, semiconductors and air treatment, among others. The federal, state, and industry regulations for each of these industries are different but overlap. The use of ozone isn’t governed by specific guidelines because, for many industries, it is more generally recognized as an alternative disinfectant option to chlorine or other chemicals, and one that should be applied in accordance with its chemical properties.

The EPA has already recognized the cleanness and effectiveness of ozone to meet all current and future Clean Water Act rules. As new technology becomes available and research gains momentum, regulations and public safety issues direct municipalities and businesses toward ozone.

Ozone is the best technology available to address certain types of water quality problems faced by utilities. For example, if the water source contains high levels of Cryptosporidium, there is no better option than ozone and/or UV.

The specificity offered by governmental scrutiny makes ozone an effective solution when issues such as bottled water recalls or recent outbreaks of E coli in raw spinach arise.

Federal regulations cover a wide array of industrial enterprises that are regulated by the EPA and subsequently by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture. Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is one of the main regulatory bodies that apply to any industry in which ozone is applied during a work setting.

Ozone Exposure

Residential areas are allowed no more than 0.05 ppm ozone by volume, while work environments, such as construction and maritime environments, are allowed no more than 0.1 ppm (0.2 mg/m3) time-weighted average.

Under OSHA’s 15-min exposure limit, there is a level of 0.3ppm. Threshold Limit Values are: 0.05ppm for heavy work, 0.08ppm for moderate work, 0.10ppm for light work and a level of 0.20ppm under two hours of work. For example, OSHA’s regulations illustrate how to differentiate between practical levels of exposure when putting in place a framework for occupational safety. You can learn more about OSHA regulations about the use of ozone here.