What’s the Deal with the Ozone Anyways?

Ozone Earth

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

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.  Bad Ozone

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.

Last Thoughts

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?

  1. Educate ourselves
  2. Start changing our non-green ways
  3. Spread awareness

Hope you found this article helpful! If you enjoyed reading this, feel free to click the share button! 🙂

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  • Bianca

    Thanks for mapping it out so clearly. Knowing the different layers and the difference between the ozon in those layers helps getting a better idea of the problems we face. And where to look for solutions. We need action. And for people to act, they need to know why. Let’s green them up 😉

  • Kate

    I’m glad I clicked on this page as I definitely needed a refresher course on this topic! Thanks for making it easy to understand. I’m always interested in informative articles about the earth and science!

  • Jennifer

    I had no idea there were 5 layers in the earths atmosphere. When I read your definitions of each I immediately starting coming up with questions about each layer that I want to google. For instance, the northern lights being seen from the thermosphere..why? how? lol
    Very interesting post. Thank you for educating me on our very special atmosphere and reminding me how important it is to protect it!

  • Guillermo

    Hi, Very interesting article, and a very important information to know. Thanks for this article. I’m agree we should Educate ourselves to start making changes in our areas of influence like our families. I think that if we all add a grain of sand we can spread awareness quickly.

  • Rob

    I never thought that deeply about the ozone layers until reading your article. Pollution is way out of hand. When you look at photos of just how bad it is, you begin to think that something has to be done to correct this serious issue. I love nature and clean air and the beauty on this planet. What is the single most thing that’s being done to combat this situation right now?

    • Blakey

      Thanks Rob! Yes, I too love nature and clean air, that’s part of why I got into living green… as I’d go to parks and camping outings, it always bothered me to see the destruction left behind by people who don’t care or who don’t know better– like with camping, people would burn all sorts of things and leave stuff behind, all that burning of stuff that shouldn’t be burned in that manner being let off into the atmosphere we breathe, it was disheartening to say the least. As an answer to your question, people seeking to adopt a greener lifestyle are all working together to combat this situation right now, just doing what they can and what works for them, and by spreading awareness… because the point is, one single thing isn’t solely responsible for what is happening. I personally believe it’s the combination of strategies, and as people stand together and begin putting greener practices into place that is going to help us… With that said, there is a couple things that people are doing that I think are wonderful to combat this. One thing is driving less, (either by getting more exercise or carpooling) OR buying an electric car. Do you realize that electric cars produce ZERO CO2 emissions? That is an awesome selling point for me!! Another area of improvement is that a lot of industries/manufacturers ARE trying to re-evaluate their practices and convert to greener practices… I believe soon we will be seeing strides on this, especially as law makers push towards a cleaner environment and are regulating this area more. Another thing that is being done right now to combat this situation is by going zero waste, imagine if everybody around you went Zero Waste, that means less trash going to the landfills and less incinerators contributing to bad ozone. Fixing a problem on a scale such as this require joint effort, that’s the big thing and why it’s so important for everybody to do what they can. Thanks for your comment Rob! I hope this information helps!

  • Holly

    Great article–this really cleared up a lot for me. I wasn’t aware that there was good and bad ozone! I feel a lot more knowledgeable on this subject now. I hope scientists are able to figure out what is going on with the good ozone so we can do something.

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