David Blaine’s Electrical Stunt Could Create Harmful Ozone – Yahoo! News
Magicians hold details in high regard, so it’s fair to inquire about one of the key details related to stunt artist David Blaine’s feat that begins today at Pier 54 in New York City’s West Village: How will Blaine’s team handle all the excess ozone gas produced with each million-volt discharge from the Tesla coils?
For three days and nights, Blaine plans to stand atop a six-meter-tall pillar while Tesla coils, controlled by spectators, zap him with electricity. Paul Hoffman, chief executive of the Liberty Science Center, where Blaine is magician-in-residence, estimates one million volts will reach Blaine at any time. The Brooklyn-based endurance performer hopes to survive the Tesla coils—worth about $5 million and donated by software giant Intel–with a protective steel chain-mail suit and metal head cage, which will direct the flow of current around, not through him.
But as those electrical discharges zap the air, they will separate oxygen molecules, which can then rejoin as O3, or ozone, an unstable toxic gas. Ozone, with its fresh, tingling scent, is a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fume. Up in the stratosphere, it protects Earth’s life by shielding harmful ultraviolet rays produced by the sun. On the ground, however, it’s smog that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates. Although an exact mathematical equation to determine the amount of ozone is hard to produce, atmospheric scientists agree that the magic show could potentially raise the ambient levels of ozone around the pier.
The concern of creating excess ozone is “extremely reasonable,” says Renyi Zhang, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University. “ I saw the [promotional] photo and I thought, wow, he will create a lot of ozone.”
A team on the ground will measure ozone levels around Blaine. Those attending the event in New York will be able to stand about 9 meters away from the pillar, Hoffman says. The EPA recommends the public avoid concentrations of ozone up to 75 parts per million for longer than eight hours, because longer exposure can irritate a person’s airways and cause lung corrosion. During a test run in a Brooklyn warehouse, Hoffman says that “ozone built up, I could feel it. I have asthma, and my throat got irritated.” The team is counting on the breezy Hudson River setting to keep a healthy mix of fresh air around the event’s venue.