Health

What is ozone therapy, and why is Malaysia completely banning it?

Working at CILISOS we hear the gomen banning stuff quite often, from plastic bags, to Ultraman books, to journalists from the parliament lobby, and most of the time we would have at least some idea of whether the ban is good or not. But recently, our gomen banned something else but unlike other times, when we saw what they banned we were like “Heh?”

Putrajaya bans ozone therapy Free Malaysia Today

Screencap from Free Malaysia Today.

Ozone? That thing in the sky that is keeping the sun’s UV rays from reaching us but is slowly eroding because of airconds and fridges? Well, somewhat like that. First and foremost, the thing that we learnt in science class is the ozone layer, which is a layer in the Earth’s atmosphere that protects us from the UV sun rays thingamajig. But it’s called the ozone layer because it has a high concentration of ozone, which in itself is actually a chemical compound.

So what in the world is ozone therapy then?

 

Ozone therapy uses ozone on humans for “health” purposes

dr evil quotation marks

We mentioned health with quotation marks because it’s really hard to say whether these health benefits are actually real. But we’ll get to that in the next point because first let us talk a bit about the therapy itself.

So we know that human body needs oxygen. As to why our body needs oxygen, it’s really science-y but basically allows the cells in our body to create energy from the food we eat, so food + oxygen → energy (for more complex explanation click here). And the molecular formula (basically elements in their scientific form) of oxygen is O2 (slightly different from ozone but we’ll get to that).

So what ozone therapy wants to do is try to increase the amount of oxygen in your body, and what this does is that the oxygen will absorb the electrons from all the harmful organisms, and then they die.

From the what-illnesses-it-can-treat section:

  • Infectious diseases like AIDS, Hepatitis, and pneumonia.
  • Chronic diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and cancer.
  • Eye problems
  • Skin problems

From the increase-your-general-well-being section:

  • Better circulation
  • Detoxification
  • Increase production of white blood cells
  • Anti-aging
  • Anti-cancer

And doesn’t it just sound like a mythical being who can make all your wishes come true?

the wizard of ozone

The thing is, ozone isn’t quite the same as oxygen. Thought they both consist of the same thing, the molecular formula of ozone O3 and it may not react with the human body the same way oxygen does. Which leads us to our next point which is….

 

The therapy may be dangerous, yet people still take it

ozone treatment center

An ozone treatment center in Malaysia. Image from thepowerofozone.com

Ozone therapy has been described as an alternative medicine (which is basically treatment that has a lot of claims of about how good it is, but for a variety of reasons may not actually be true).

The most conclusive thing that we could find on how ozone therapy could be bad was because ozone gas itself is harmful to the human body. According to the US gomen, breathing in too much ozone gas can be dangerous because the gas can “cause the muscles in the airways to constrict, trapping air in the alveoli.” In other words, make it difficult for you to breathe.

“Long-term exposure to ozone is linked to aggravation of asthma, and is likely to be one of many causes of asthma development. Long-term exposures to higher concentrations of ozone may also be linked to permanent lung damage, such as abnormal lung development in children.” – US Environmental Protection Agency

But that’s if you breathe in the ozone. It’s different from ozone therapy because the ozone is administered into the bloodstream. So are the effects the same?

ozone blood therapy

Image from ozonetherapymalaysia.com

Various websites mention different doctors experimenting with putting ozone into blood for the past century, but a US gomen medical journal mentions that while there are possible advantages, there were also possible disadvantages, and we say possible because it didn’t seem that journal didn’t really conclusively say whether it was good or bad. Still another journal said that it could be good, but encouraged further research.

As to whether it actually has led to people dying from ozone therapy, it seems like that can be a bit hard to prove. We did find a number of articles mentioning it (like here, here, and here), but many of these cases, it shows that these people were already terminally ill (like they already had cancer and stuff).

“The people who are coming to me have pretty much given up. They find out ozone exists and that it might have a chance to help them.” – Dr Howard Robins, a doctor who provides ozone therapy in New York, as quoted by Newsmax Health (we should also mention his official website is no longer there)

 

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But when did this treatment even become a thing in Malaysia?

For a lot of us, this would be the first time that we hear of ozone therapy, but it seems that the Health Ministry moved to ban this because it was actually being actively promoted in Malaysia. So active that these companies even used celebrities to endorse their product.

remy ishak ozone therapy

Malaysian actor, Remy Ishak, undergoing ozone therapy. Image from NST.

“It (the promotion of dubious services) was a mistake. I am only human. I failed to do enough due diligence before submitting myself to the procedure that I was promoting. But I did ask the operators about the procedure. They falsely claimed that it had been approved by the Health Ministry. I should have known better than to take the word of the operators at face value.” – Remy Ishak, Malaysian actor, as quoted by New Straits Times

But even though the Health Ministry only banned it like a few days ago, news about ozone therapy in Malaysia actually goes back a few years.

ozone therapy adverty

Until some shops got banner all. Image from NST.

News about ozone therapy also once made it to Malaysia in 2011. Back then the Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) stated that they concluded that ozone therapy doesn’t actually have any medical benefits. They did however, stop short of saying it should be banned. This was then met with some backlash from those who supported the therapy saying that they have been sending proof of its benefits to the Health Ministry since the year 2000.

“I decided to seek ozone therapy instead after reading about its benefits. Just five days after a series of treatment, I was able to walk more than 100 metres without any assistance (after having a heart attack).” – Chin Choong Men, social activist, as quoted by Free Malaysia Today

But since then we can’t seem to find anything happening in between 2011 and now, which may explain why it has grown in popularity. Until the recent ban that is. In fact, not long after the ban, the Ozone Medical Practitioners Association Malaysia (PPPOM), has come out and said that the gomen has lumped ozone treatment together with people who use ozone for beauty-related purposes.

“The beauty industry have overclaimed what ozone therapy can do, it has nothing to do with us. They are not part of us. In fact they are not even registered with us. To announce a ban on ozone therapy as a whole has impacted us badly as a lot of patients are reliant on the treatment.” – Dr Ahmad Hassan Masduk, PPPOM’s representative, as quoted by Malaysian Digest

And with there being arguments for and against ozone therapy perhaps the big question here is…

 

Is the gomen right to ban ozone therapy?

Based on what we read above, ozone therapy may have its benefits, and with testimonies from people who have become healthier from the therapy, it doesn’t sound like something that needs to be banned outright. Malaysia already has many types of alternative medicine (like acupuncture, Chinese medicine, yoga, which all have been said to be alternative medicine as well), so why treat this differently?

And just because the gomen hasn’t found any evidence of its health benefits, it doesn’t mean that it should be banned right? Especially when all of the deaths related to it seem to be people who were already sick.

UPDATE: Based on user feedback, we recognise that the use of syringes and that Ozone Therapy affects the blood directly DOES introduce an element of infection, and harm more than other experimental treatments listed above. After all, ozone therapy requires an injection of some sort, and by law, these can only be done by qualified medical practitioners

However, as listed above, not ALL Ozone therapists are beauty practitioners, and for that portion of the market, perhaps there is yet a case to be made.

It seems that the gomen made the decision to ban ozone therapy solely based on the fact that can end up harming people.

“There is no clinical evidence to support claims of health benefits as being promoted… what is clear is the risks that come with it.” – Associate Professor Dr Mohd Hasni Ja’afar, from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Medical Centre, as quoted by NST

Still, the cries of those who support it have not been in vain. The Health Ministry recently said they would do an in-depth study of ozone therapy, even if they still believe the therapy is dangerous. And for now it looks like the verdict is still open on whether ozone therapy really is as bad or good as people say.

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