So, over the years I’ve heard a lot of confusion and ongoing debate regarding the ozone. People can’t decide whether it’s good for you or bad for you. People can’t decide whether we have a giant hole in the ozone or if healing has indeed begun.
Maybe some of you guys have thought about these points as well and wondered, ‘So which is it? what’s the deal with the ozone?’
And no, in case you wondered, ozone depletion isn’t going to randomly suck you out into space. But, after really giving the whole ozone thing a lot of thought (and research), and after thinking about people’s comments and questions, I decided a clarification was in order.
What is Ozone?
This answer depends on where the ozone is located.
I know, it sounds a little confusing, but just bear with me on this and let me explain.
Part of the problem with the confusion is that I believe others are mixing up two similar processes but entirely separate things. So let’s start from the beginning with a little refresher…
As we mentioned in a prior post, basically ozone gas is created through a chemical reaction as the suns rays mix with oxygen. …But this is only one side of the equation.
To explain ozone, you need to understand that there are different layers of atmosphere that surround Earth. There are five of them actually.
What are the layers of Atmosphere that surround the earth?
These layers are labeled as follows:
- Troposphere: This is the lowest layer of our atmosphere. It extends from where our feet hit the ground up to about 7 miles (0-12 km) upward from earth. It is where we live, it is the air that we breathe. It is where most planes fly. It is also where weather occurs. It is where the clouds live …and it is where ozone lives.
- Stratosphere: This area of atmosphere is located directly after the troposphere, about 7 miles to 31 miles (12-50 km) upward from earth. Some jet planes fly in the lowest parts of the stratosphere to avoid turbulence. They do this mainly because, as we inferred earlier, there is absolutely no weather in stratosphere and it makes flying a much smoother ride. Here is also where most of the protective ozone is located. These gases shield us from the suns harmful UV rays.
- Mesosphere: This area of atmosphere is located between 30 miles to 50 miles (50-80 km) out from earth. There is not a whole lot going on in the mesosphere, but the temperature decreases the further out you go. If, for some reason, meteors from outer space break through to this layer, this is where they tend to burn up quickly.
- Thermosphere: This area of atmosphere is located between 50 miles to 440 miles (80-700 km) from the earth. This is the layer where satelites orbit the earth. It is also the layer where you can see the Northern Lights and the Southern Lights from earth.
- Exosphere: Last but not least, this area of atmosphere is located 440 miles to 6,200 miles (700-190,000 km) from the earth. This is the outermost layer of earth’s atmosphere that fades into outer space. Air is extremely thin here.
Ozone finally clarified
Now back to ozone.
Notice I said most of ozone is located in the stratosphere. I also stated there was ozone in the troposphere.
Now do you see where the confusion lies? Because where the ozone is located is a critical point in understanding ozone and the debate surrounding ozone.
Let me explain it further. Scientists call the ozone in the stratosphere Good Ozone because it creates a protective shield and absorbs most of the radiation from the sun’s UV rays. This good ozone is the result of natural chemical reactions made from UV rays mixing with oxygen.
However, Bad Ozone is created in the troposphere where we live and breathe. It is the main pollutant in smog. It is the major pollutant that makes breathing difficult and harms every living thing within it- humans, plants, animals, you name it.
This ozone is the result of artificial chemical reactions that occur when UV rays mix with pollutants put out by automobiles, industrial factories, refineries, chemical plants, etc.
Clearly, we as the Earth’s inhabitants, need to be concerned about both ozones.
The good ozone is the ozone we want to preserve.
The bad ozone is the ozone we want to improve and/or eliminate.
The Good Ozone debate:
Is there currently a hole in the ozone layer?
Scientists are debating this actually. Some are saying that all our positive efforts to heal our good ozone have been working. We are slowly healing our ozone hole through different measures we’ve taken, like banning chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) that was once commonly found in the aerosol of aerosol cans.
And yes, the good ozone in the mid-stratosphere is definitely healing itself, but… the good ozone in the lower stratosphere is still depleting.
Scientists aren’t sure why the lower stratosphere is depleting. Some of the things they’re looking at as possible reasons (and studying) are whether VSLS’s (very short lived halogen containing substances) are responsible for the depletion, or if it’s due to bad ozone, or whether the depletion is related to global warming.
What happens when Good Ozone starts depleting?
The thinner the ozone layer, the greater the rise in plant damage, skin cancers, eye damage and genetic and immune system problems in humans and animals.
The Bad Ozone debate:
Actually, it is not much of a debate, people just confuse it with good ozone. Yet, studies on health and its link to the environment have consistently pointed a finger at bad ozone. Doctors and those working in health facilities do not deny these truths. CDC does not dispute these truths. Nobody is arguing or denying these truths.
In either case, there are things that we can do individually and globally to address each type of ozone.
A lot of it involves being more conscious of the environment on individual, industrial and corporate levels.
For example, are we buying products that support the formation of bad ozone? Are governmental regulations on industry striving towards green practices? Are we participating in activities that contribute to global warming? These are questions we need to ask ourselves.
So what can we do?
- Educate ourselves
- Start changing our non-green ways
- Spread awareness
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