Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Life in the ozone layer

Some woo-woo ideas are at least understandable.  You can see how people might, through a combination of wishful thinking, dart-thrower's bias, confirmation bias, and the like, decide that the stars guide your future, that good luck charms (or evil curses) work, that Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster and El Chupacabra exist, that aliens regularly visit the Earth.

Other claims, however, leave me wondering how the ones making them have not been taken out by natural selection decades ago.

Consider, for example, the idea that has recently been making the rounds of social media -- that the road to good health comes through breathing ozone.

I've started seeing this pop up all over the place.  I even know someone who bought an "ozone generator" for his house.  Here's the claim:
The therapeutic properties of ozone can be astounding. Organized Medicine, the FDA, and above all the Pharmaceutical giants have been actively suppressing information about ozone therapy for the better part of this century. Officially, the FDA list ozone as a toxic gas, an utter and contemptible falsehood. Many healers, including licensed MD's and chiropractors have been jailed and viciously harassed for treating (and healing) patients with ozone. Why? It works and the pharmaceutical houses, along with their puppets in the FDA and local medical boards don't want you to know that it works! That's why.
So right from the get-go we have the pro-ozoners claiming that reputable scientists publishing in peer-reviewed journals (such as Mohamed Mostafa of UCLA, author of "The Biochemical Basis of Ozone Toxicity," and William A. Pryor et al. of LSU, authors of "The Cascade Mechanism to Explain Ozone Toxicity") are shills who are lying to you.

But it gets better.  Wait till you hear how they want you to get the ozone inside you, because it turns out that just breathing the stuff isn't good enough.  And let me say, at the outset, that I'm not making any of these up, and if you don't believe me, you can check the link I posted above.  So, here goes, in order of increasing weirdness.
  1. You can drink water that has been infused with ozone.
  2. You can smear ozonated olive oil on your skin.
  3. You can have the doctor take out a pint of your blood, bubble ozone through it, and put the blood back in.
  4. You can have the doctor blow ozone into your ear.
  5. You can have the doctor blow ozone up your ass.
  6. You can take off all your clothes, get into a plastic bag that ties at the neck, and have the doctor (or a friend) inflate the bag with ozone.
  7. You can have the doctor inject ozone gas directly into a vein.
This last one seems to me to be a good way of inducing a gas embolism and dying, but the pro-ozoners say this never happens.  Why?  Because ozone GOOD, that's why.  Stop asking questions.  (In fact, the site says about the potential for gas embolism, "Do not allow this bogus fear tactic to keep you from investigating this highly effective and safe therapy!")

What, exactly, are they claiming that ozone does for you?  Well, it's not entirely clear, but here are the basics:
Ozone is an unstable, but highly beneficial molecule. It's the tri-atomic form of oxygen: Instead of the normal arrangement of 2 atoms of oxygen (O2), ozone is comprised of 3 atoms of oxygen (O3). Ozone, however, doesn't want to stay in that tri-atomic state very long and unless held in check or bound by other molecular couplings, ozone will usually break down from O3 to O2 + O1 within 20 minutes of so (at atmospheric pressure at least). O1 is called a singlet oxygen atom and it's HIGHLY REACTIVE. with just about any substance that should NOT be in the human body including all pathogens (virus, bacteria, etc.) and synthetic compounds or their metabolites such as drugs and their  metabolite residues.
So I see this as basically characterizing ozone as some kind of chemical superhero that seeks out and destroys bad guys in your body, but doesn't damage your own honest, law-abiding cells.  It flies in, wearing a cape festooned with "O3," kills pathogens and "synthetic compounds" (because we know that natural = good and synthetic = bad), and then flies away in triumph, leaving all of your organs happy, safe, and secure.

The truth, of course, is that ozone is toxic, and that using an ozone generator (or getting the stuff into your body via some more unorthodox route) is potentially dangerous.  An EPA report on the use of ozone generators to "clean household air" has this to say:
The same chemical properties that allow high concentrations of ozone to react with organic material outside the body give it the ability to react with similar organic material that makes up the body, and potentially cause harmful health consequences.  When inhaled, ozone can damage the lungs... Relatively low amounts can cause chest pain, coughing, shortness of breath, and, throat irritation.  Ozone may also worsen chronic respiratory diseases such as asthma and compromise the ability of the body to fight respiratory infections.  People vary widely in their susceptibility to ozone. Healthy people, as well as those with respiratory difficulty, can experience breathing problems when exposed to ozone.  Exercise during exposure to ozone causes a greater amount of ozone to be inhaled, and increases the risk of harmful respiratory effects.  Recovery from the harmful effects can occur following short-term exposure to low levels of ozone, but health effects may become more damaging and recovery less certain at higher levels or from longer exposure.
Ah, yes, the EPA.  Yet another bunch of shills for Big Pharma, right?

Of course right.

What I find mysterious about all of this is how anyone ever came up with this idea.  Ozone has long been known to be a constituent of photochemical smog, and most people have learned the general rule that "smog is bad" well enough that you'd think no one would suddenly think, "Hey, I know what would work!  Let's concentrate the stuff in smog and then breathe it!  That'll improve our health!"

But apparently that's exactly what has happened here.

So I'm kind of at a loss about this one.  There doesn't seem to be any reasonable explanation for how this started, nor why anyone believes it.

All I know is that based on what I've read, no one is getting near any of my orifices with an ozone tube.


  1. "You can have the doctor inject ozone gas directly into a vein."

    No doctor has, or would ever, do this... So they are just spitballing bullshit.

    Just because you're having a midlife crisis where you realize that your only contribution to society is working at Gamestop, does not mean that you need to take it out on the rest of us by becoming a "weekend scientist" with your own web page about chemtrails or ozone.

    You are still lame, you haven't offered anyone anything productive but a display of your own narcicism, and telling people to inject gas into their veins has got to be The Dumbest woo-woo advice I have heard in a long time.

    *Counts backwards from 10*

    Especially good post today, I guess. :P

  2. to be clear, the ozone in the vein is actually infused in a saline solution, and THEN infused. so basically a hydration type infusion but w/ozone.