Friday, December 10, 2010

Ozone: the multi-faceted element

I recently saw a picture of our planet with the hole in the ozone layer. It got me to think of Angels in America (one of my favorite movies, with Justin Kirk, Jeffrey Wright, Al Pacino, Meryl Streep and others) and also of Kurt Weston, and others like him who, while living with HIV/AIDS, have tried anything and everything to stay alive. Including ozone therapy. Here's a short excerpt about ozone and ozone therapy from my book, Journeys Through Darkness, a biography that follows the life and art of award-winning visual artist, Kurt Weston, as they were forever changed by his living with a life-threatening disease.

Hope you'll enjoy the read.

As always, thanks for visiting,
Alina Oswald
Author of Journeys Through Darkness

Ozone is a gas discovered in 1839 by a German scientist named Christian Friedrich Schonbein. The name “ozone” comes from the Greek “ozein,” which means “(to) smell.” Its molecule is relatively unstable and of a pale-blue color (which gives the color of our sky). Ozone is formed when ultraviolet light or an electrical discharge splits an oxygen molecule into two highly active oxygen atoms. The recombination of atomic oxygen with the oxygen molecule that follows forms the tri-molecular oxygen, called ozone. The gas has a bleach-y like smell that is sometimes felt in the air after an electrical storm or in the vicinity of electrical equipment.
A gas like ozone, with such a simple molecule, turns out to have quite some dramatic effects on life on Earth. In the higher layers of Earth’s atmosphere there is what scientists call “good ozone” because it protects life on Earth from outside ultraviolet radiations, and also people from getting skin cancers, cataracts or impaired immune systems. Closer to the Earth’s surface, where the gas comes directly in contact with human life, there is what experts call “bad ozone,” a harmful pollutant that can damage the lung tissue. This “bad ozone” is also a major constituent of smog.
Ozone can also be used in oxygenation (or oxygen) therapies—a type of alternative therapies said to cure cancer or impaired immune system related diseases. The seeds of the oxygenation therapy concepts are found in the works of William F. Koch (1885-1962), a Detroit physician, and Otto Warburg (1883-1970), a researcher and double Nobel Prize winner—once in 1931, for discovering the oxygen-transferring enzymes in cellular respiration and again in 1944, for identifying the enzymes that transfer hydrogen in metabolism.
Oxygenation therapy has many pros and cons, and the definite disapproval of the conventional medicine experts. Oxygenation therapy proponents explain it as being based on the presumption that a deficit of oxygen in the tissue (also known as hypoxia) can cause human disease and, therefore, lead to immune system’s failure to kill invading bacteria and viruses. An infusion of pure oxygen (like ozone) can restore this function of the immune system.
There are two substances usually recommended in oxygenation therapy—hydrogen peroxide and ozone. Their names determine the type of oxygenation therapy.
Originally discovered in 1818, hydrogen peroxide is a substance present in nature in trace amounts. It decomposes violently when it comes in direct contact with organic matter. Light, chemicals like carbonates, proteins or chlorides are only a few factors that can accelerate the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. Therapy using a “food grade” (thirty-five percent) hydrogen peroxide solution suggests that patients should drink the substance, use it for brushing their teeth, for soaking in a bath with it or massaging it into their skin. Patients can also use it as douches, colonic irrigations or intravenous infusions. 
Ozone can also be used in oxygenation therapies intravenously, intramuscularly or as colonic irrigation. During the early nineties, some of its proponents advertised that ozone therapy could cure AIDS by inactivating extra-cellular HIV. And either they believed that or not, AIDS patients were willing to give it a try.