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Ozone Ground Level – Causes & Dangers

Posted Jul 10 2010 5:34am


The subject of global warming has been under much speculation for the past three decades with its far-reaching effects suggesting that there will climate changes which will be due to an increase in temperature, thanks to the greenhouse gases that are trapping heat in the lower atmosphere.

At another level altogether, ozone depletion has been steadily increasing in the stratosphere, thanks to the 'greenhouse gases' such as carbon-do-oxide, methane and nitrous oxide along with the infamous refrigerants that are collecting in the lower atmosphere.

And guess who's at fault?

Us, humans, of course. Blame it on blatantly selfish consumerism with absolutely no regard for the delicate balance environment, and since the only reason why people are waking up is  because if we continue this way, all species (including mankind) will be wiped out without a trace. And we don't want that… do we?

Thanks to the lifestyles that we are used to, experts estimate the ozone depletion in the atmosphere to continue until the year 2020 (another friggin' ten years!) despite all our efforts to recycle and so on and so forth.

While ozone depletion in the stratosphere is a big topic of discussion, one must not forget that there is another growing issue of ozone in the lower atmosphere, which is also known as 'ground level ozone'.

Ground Level Ozone and the cause of its formation

As any chemistry student knows that the chemical composition  of ozone is O3, it is present both in the stratosphere as well as in the lower atmosphere. While ozone in the stratosphere works for our benefit by protecting us from harmful UV rays that could be potentially fatal. How Ozone is produced by oxygen reacting with these ultraviolet rays between the wavelengths of 270 to 400 nm to form more ozone.

However, ozone formed in the troposphere (the lower atmosphere), works to the detriment of humans and plants alike. Thanks to motor vehicle exhaust and industrial emission apart from gasoline vapors and chemical solvents which emit NOx (various oxides of nitrogen) and hydrocarbons that are present in the air, and thus reacts with sunlight, especially on warm and sunny days.

Ozone formed from these reactions has been clearly classified as an atmospheric pollutant, although experts have little data to verify the extent it causes harmful effect as compared to greenhouse gases such as carbon-di–oxide due to irregular levels of low level ozone across the globe. But what is for sure is that it does cause harm to species of  plants, animals and humans.

The Dangers of Ground Level Ozone

The most obvious danger is the risk ozone (which is carried in the air) poses to human health particularly effecting the lungs, eyes and respiratory tract.

Ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, heart attack, lung damage and inflammation and even premature death are a result of exposure to ozone and the products that it is formed from. Chest pain, coughing, throat irritation and congestion are also have been known to happen due to exposure to ozone with seniors and little children known to be especially susceptible. However, studies conducted so far are still trying to link lung cancer and mortality to this greenhouse gas.

Apart from affecting humans, plants and animals are have to bear the brunt of its far-reaching effects, and which can result in the complete damage of complete ecosystems and reduced crop and forest yields in the presence of dangerous levels of ozone.

In Closing

Ozone levels in every city is measured by a Dobson ozone spectrophotometer in the form of Dobson units, measured in part per billion. So if you want to know the ozone levels in your city, you can easily check for that information.

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