Ozone Information For Clinicians

A History of Ozone

© Dr Julian Holmes

Ozone Information

History of Ozone

History of Ozone

Ozone and Ozone Therapy; An Historical Perspective.

Author; Dr Julian Holmes, 2006.

Ozone; a brief history from discovery to modern day usage

Until the reports of the sea exploration of Christopher Columbus, most people believed that this world was flat, like a table top. Some of the ancient Greeks, however, had reasoned that the earth was round and that the canopy of air above them was part of another sphere surrounding this planet. They used two words to describe it -- atmos (vapour) and sphaira (sphere). We know now that they were right. The atmosphere is a gaseous envelope which, held by gravity, clings to the earth and follows its every movement. We commonly call it "the air”. The air we breathe is the commonest thing on earth. It provides us with all the elements necessary for life: oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide and water vapour. It filters and protects us from the killing rays of the sun and it has been described as a “greenhouse”.

Near the earth's surface, perfectly dry air contains about 78% nitrogen, 21% oxygen, and one percent of argon, an inert gas, small amounts of carbon dioxide and hydrogen, and tiny amounts of five rare gases: neon, krypton, helium, ozone and xenon. Normally, however, air also contains water vapour in quantities varying from a mere trace to about 5 percent on hot humid days, and it is responsible for the clouds, fogs, rain, snow, hail, dew and frost. At altitudes of more than 5 miles there is very little water vapour because of the low temperatures. In addition, our air contains various amounts of impurities such as dust, soot, pollen, spores, bacteria, salt particles from sea spray and, especially near industrial areas, poisonous gases.

The density of the atmosphere diminishes rapidly with altitude. Six miles up it is so thin that a man cannot breathe; at 12 miles there is not enough oxygen to keep a candle burning; at 400 miles, in the almost airless Mesosphere, the main ingredients are probably hydrogen and helium, the two lightest gases.

Data obtained from radio waves, balloons and missiles indicate that, for convenience, the atmosphere may be divided into five layers or concentric spheres around the earth. They are chiefly distinguished by the temperatures in them but each merges gradually into the one above it. The lowest layer, roughly 7 miles high, is the Troposphere where most of our weather is generated and which contains the air we breathe.

Above that is the Stratosphere, extending to an altitude of about 20 miles and then the Chemosphere where the sun's ultraviolet rays are screened from the earth by the ozone gas they produce. The space between altitudes of 50 and 250 is called the Ionosphere. Above it, and extending to possibly 600 miles above the earth, is the Mesosphere. Beyond that is the Exosphere merging into outer space where, like the space station Columbus, men now carry on exploratory work.

In nature, there is a cycle of oxygen just like there is a cycle of water. Oxygen is released from plants on land and plankton in the sea during photosynthesis. Oxygen is lighter than air and floats upward in the atmosphere. At the 20-30 km region, strong ultraviolet radiation in the 185-200 nanometer wavelength bombards the oxygen and turns some of it into ozone, O3. The ozone created exists as a thin layer in the atmosphere and it blocks out the small portion of the UV spectrum that it absorbs. The great majority of the UV reaches the earth’s surface. We hear a great deal about the thinning of the ozone layer in the media, but the facts are otherwise.

Ozone production in the upper atmosphere is dependent on the amount of energy coming from the sun. During peaks of solar activity, ozone is created at a greater rate. During lulls in the sunspot cycle, the ozone layer is thinner. The lowest level ever measured was in 1962. At night, on the dark side of the planet, the ozone layer disappears, in a few hours. The layer is reformed as the sun rises in the morning. There is no ozone over the poles in the winter because there is no sunlight. Chlorofluorocarbons, CFCs are the heaviest and most inert compound gases possible. CFCs once were used in everything from air conditioners and refrigerators to underarm deodorant sprays. CFCs were considered safe because they form an inert gas that doesn't react chemically with anything. Breathe them in, spray them around the house, and there is no harm done. But the very indestructibility of CFCs makes them a hazard to the environment. Unlike other gases, which break down in chemical reactions, CFCs remain airborne until eventually they drift all the way up to the stratosphere. One of the few things that can split and destroy a CFC molecule are ultraviolet rays. Most UV radiation from the sun does not reach Earth because it is absorbed by the ozone in the stratosphere. When CFCs float up above the protective ozone layer, they absorb UV rays, which cause the molecules to break apart into individual atoms of chlorine.

Chlorine atoms are destructive if left to float around in the ozone layer. Ozone is a form of oxygen containing three atoms per molecule instead of two. When a free chlorine atom meets an ozone molecule, the chlorine atom plucks an oxygen atom from the ozone molecule, destroying the ozone molecule. But that's not the end of it. The chlorine atom quickly sheds the oxygen atom it picked up, and then continues on to destroy other ozone molecules. The destruction only stops when the chlorine atom hits a non-ozone molecule and forms a molecule so heavy that it falls to Earth.

One non-ozone compound that can attach to free chlorine atom is nitrogen oxide, a gas. However, volcanic aerosols remove nitrogen oxide from the stratosphere; they cause nitrogen oxide to react with water vapour and form droplets of nitric acid, which fall to the ground. With less nitrogen oxide in the stratosphere, the chlorine atoms from CFCs destroy many more ozone molecules than they ordinarily would. Drew Shindell, an ozone specialist at the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, notes that in the presence of volcanic aerosols, "one chlorine molecule can destroy 400 ozone molecules before it bumps into something else"-20 to 40 times more ozone molecules than would be destroyed in the absence of volcanic aerosols.

Volcanic aerosols also break down ozone in another way. The chemical reactions that destroy ozone speed up when particles like ice crystals are in the air, because the ice crystals provide a surface on which the reactions can occur. That is why an "ozone hole" appears over the Antarctic each winter. There are no more CFCs there than elsewhere, but there are more ice crystals: more tiny platforms on chemical reactions can take place. The aerosol particles created by volcanoes play a role similar to ice crystals. They provide ready surfaces for chemical reactions, in effect spreading the ozone hole over the entire globe.

Ozone is produced constantly in the upper atmosphere as long as the sun is shining, and since ozone is heavier than air, it begins to fall earthward. As it falls, it combines with any pollutant it contacts, cleaning the air. This is nature's wonderful self-cleaning system. If ozone contacts water vapour as it falls, it forms hydrogen peroxide, a component of rainwater, and the reason why rainwater causes plants to grow better than irrigation.

Ozone is also created by lightning, giving the wonderful fresh smell after a rain, and is of the highest benefit to anyone fortunate enough to be breathing it. Ozone is also created by waterfalls and crashing surf, which accounts for the energetic feeling and calm experienced near these sites. Another way ozone is produced is by photons from the sun breaking apart nitrous oxide, a pollutant formed by the combustion of hydrocarbons in the internal combustion engine. This ozone can accumulate in smog due to temperature inversions and is a lung and eye irritant.

The American Indians, for whom fishing was a central industry, recognized a correlation between a successful catch and a strange odour released by the action of lightning after an electric storm. On the other side of the globe the Greeks had also noticed the odour and like the Indians, preferred fishing after a storm, which is still practiced today. The explanation for this natural phenomenon is that after an electric storm the upper layer of water in lakes is enriched with diluted oxygen and therefore naturally ozonated, and fallen microbes / debris on which the fish feed. The positive influence of ozone on the digestive system of different species of fish has been scientifically documented. The closed loop for fish-farming is only possible with ozone because of its ability to destroy viruses responsible for many diseases in fish culture.
One of the most common uses of ozone is for the treatment of water. Scientists and doctors studied the ozonation system at Oudshoorn in Holland and later built an industrial plant at Nice, France. Nice is therefore referred to as "the birthplace of ozonation for drinking water treatment".

Ozone, the tri-atomic state of di-oxygen, symbol O3, has had a chequered history in medical and dental usage. In 1785 Van Marum noticed that air near his electrostatic machine acquired a characteristic odour when electric sparks were passed. In 1801, Cruickshank observed the same odour at the anode during electrolysis of water. Finally, in 1840 Shonbein named the substance which gave off this odour, ozone, from the Greek word "ozein" - to smell, (although some historical authors have suggested another German scientist, Christian Fernandez should be credited with the discovery of ozone). In 1857 Werner Von Siemens designed an ozone generator that has since evolved into the present day, cylindrical dielectric type that makes up most of the commercially available ozone generators in use, and which has sometimes been called the "Siemens Type" ozone generator. Ozone was first applied in Dentistry in 1932 by a Swiss Dental Surgeon, Dr Edwin Fisch.

1870 saw the first report on ozone being used therapeutically to purify blood, by C. Lender in Germany. There is evidence of the use of ozone as a disinfectant from 1881, mentioned by Dr. Kellogg in his book on diphtheria. In October of 1893, the world's first water treatment plant using ozone was installed in Ousbaden, Holland, and today there are over 7000 municipalities around the world that use ozone to clean their water and sewage. In 1885, the Florida Medical Association published "Ozone" by Dr. Charles J. Kenworth, MD, detailing the use of ozone for therapeutic purposes and in 1886 the ability of ozone to disinfect polluted water was recognized in Europe. Test results from Germany showed that ozone was effective against bacteria and in 1893 ozone was reported in algae control. In September 1896, the electrical genius Nikola Tesla patented his first ozone generator, and in 1900 he formed the Tesla Ozone Company. Tesla sold ozone machines to doctors for medical use, and modern ozone production units are still based on one of his designs from the 1920s. Tesla also produced ozonated olive oil and sold it to naturopaths. In 1898, the Institute for Oxygen Therapy was started in Berlin by Thauerkauf and Luth. They injected ozone into animals and bonded ozone to magnesium, producing Homozon.

Ozone has proven to be the safest medical therapy ever devised.

Beginning in 1898, Dr. Benedict Lust, a German doctor practicing in New York, who was the originator and founder Naturopathy, wrote many articles and books on ozone. In 1902, J.H.Clarke's "A Dictionary of Practical Materia Medica," London describes the successful use of ozonated water in treating anaemia, cancer, diabetes, influenza, morphine poisoning, canker sores, strychnine poisoning and whooping cough. In 1903 at Niagara Falls, NY a water purification plant went on-line, and by 1915 at least 49 major ozone installations for water purification are on line throughout Europe. In the early 1900’s, the London Underground was ventilated with ozone to keep the air in the tunnels fresh and bacteria free.

In 1911, "A Working Manual of High Frequency Currents" was published by Dr. Noble Eberhart, MD. Dr. Eberhart was head of the Department of Physiologic Therapeutics at Loyola University. He used ozone to treat tuberculosis, anaemia, chlorosis, tinnitus, whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, insomnia, pneumonia, diabetes, gout and syphilis. In 1913, the Eastern Association for Oxygen Therapy was formed by Dr. Blass and some German associates.

During World War 1, ozone was used to treat wounds, trench foot, gangrene and the effects of poison gas. Dr. Albert Wolff of Berlin also used ozone for colon cancer, cervical cancer and decubitis ulcers in 1915. Around World War I poisonous gas research lead to the development of inexpensive chlorine gas, and due to the costs of large scale ozone manufacture, interest in ozone for water purification began to decline.

In 1920, Dr. Charles Neiswanger MD, the President of the Chicago Hospital College of Medicine, published "Electro Therapeutical Practice." Chapter 32 was entitled “Ozone as a Therapeutic Agent." In 1926, Dr. Otto Warburg of the Kaiser Institute in Berlin announced that the cause of cancer is lack of oxygen at the cellular level. Dr. Otto Warburg received the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1931 and again in 1944, the only person to ever receive two Nobel Prizes for Medicine. He was also nominated for a third.

In 1929, a book called "Ozone and Its Therapeutic Action" was published in the US listing 114 diseases and how to treat them with ozone. Its authors were the heads of all the leading American hospitals. A Swiss dentist, Dr Edwin A. Fisch was using ozone in dentistry before 1932, and introduced it to the German surgeon Erwin Payr who used it from that time forward. Aubourg and Lacoste were French physicians using ozone insufflation from 1934-1938.

The use of ozone in the United States can be traced back to the 1940's and in 1948; Dr. William Turska of Oregon began using ozone, employing a machine of his own design. In 1951, Dr. Turska wrote the article "Oxidation". Dr. Turska pioneered injection of ozone into the portal vein, thereby reaching the liver.

From 1953 onward, the German doctor Hans Wolff used ozone in his practice, writing the book "Medical Ozone," and training many doctors in ozone therapy. In 1957, Dr. J. Hansler patented an ozone generator which has formed the basis of the German expansion of ozone therapy over the last 35 years. Today over 7000 German doctors use ozone therapy daily.

In 1961, Hans Wolff introduced the techniques of major and minor autohemotherapy. In 1964 Spontaneous flocculation in ozone contact chambers led to France constructing an ozone plant to enhance particulate removal. In 1965 Scotland (UK) was using ozone for colour control in surface water, and this is the first report of ozone being used to control colour of substances. At the same time, Swiss research lead to the use of ozone to oxidize micro pollutants such as phenolic compounds and several pesticides.

In 1977, Dr. Renate Viebahn provided a technical overview of ozone action in the body. In 1979, Dr. George Freibott began treating his first AIDS patient with ozone, and in 1980, Dr. Horst Kief also reported success treating AIDS with ozone. In 1987, Dr. Rilling and Dr. Viebahn published "The Use of Ozone in Medicine," the standard text on the subject. In 1990, the Cubans reported on their success in treating glaucoma, conjunctivitis and retinitis pigmentosa with ozone.

In 1978, FDA reported 1.5 million people were hospitalized in the USA due to side effects and approximately 140,000 people die (9.3%) from prescription drug usage.


In 1980, a study by the German Medical Society for Ozone Therap, 5,579,238 ozone treatments administered, 40 cases of side effects, (0.000007%), 0 fatalities.

In 1978, FDA reports showed that 1.5 million people were hospitalized in the USA due to side effects from medication. On the other hand, medical ozone has been legally used in clinics worldwide on a daily basis since the forties. In Germany, ozone side effects are typically minor irritations that are caused by incorrect application and quickly disappear. This side effect rate is incredibly far lower than U.S. drug therapy side effect rates. In the USA, approximately 140,000 people (9.33%) die from prescription drug usage. Ozone, on the other hand, has been found to be an extremely safe medical therapy, and free from side effects. In 1980, a study carried out by the German Medical Society for Ozone Therapy. 644 therapists were polled regarding their 384,775 patients, comprising a total of 5,579,238 ozone treatments administered. There were only 40 cases of side effects (all operator / administrator caused) noted out of this number which represents the incredibly low rate of .000007%. There has never been a reported case where ozone has caused a death. Ozone has thus proven to be the safest medical therapy ever devised.

In 1992, the Russians revealed their techniques of using ozone bubbled into brine to treat burn victims with astounding results.

Ozone has played a significant role in the waste treatment process in the past and will continue to do so in the future. The utilization of ozone in industrial situations has a long and impressive history, one that pre-dates current environmental concerns.

In 1998, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in conjunction with the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1991, confirmed that ozone was effective in ridding water of hazardous pathogens and including chlorine resistant Cryptosporidium.” (Agricultural Outlook, June/July, 1998). But, in 1999, the USDA rejected an ozone use protocol for extending the longevity of fresh meat and agricultural produce.

When ozone is used to treat our drinking water, it is effective in eliminating colour, taste, and odour. Chlorine, used in many facilities as a disinfectant, has recently been found in scientific studies to have a tendency to create carcinogens as it breaks down. For this reason there is increased pressure to reduce or eliminate chlorine as a primary disinfectant to water. Many cities, including Los Angeles, are now using ozone to disinfect their water supplies. Ozone is 150 times more powerful than chlorine and 3500 times faster acting. It eliminates harmful metals as well, by causing these metals to clump together which allows them to be large enough to filter out. Because of ozone’s short life, it quickly converts to pure oxygen and thus adds much needed oxygen to the water. Since ozone water purification systems require no chemicals, they are healthier and very cost-effective in long-term applications.

Today, after 125 years of usage, ozone therapy is a recognized modality in many nations: Germany, France, Italy, Russia, Romania, Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Israel, Cuba, Japan, Mexico, and in five US states.


January 2015
The-O-Zone © Dr Julian Holmes