Aug 29, 2015

Good Ozone vs. Bad Ozone

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Many nations unite to reduce Ozone depleting substancesWhat is ozone? Well the answer depends on which ozone you are referring to. High altitude ozone is the good ozone protecting us from the damaging rays of the sun. Low level or ground level ozone is the bad ozone with direct effects on our health as well as indirect effects on the ozone layer. Here’s why…

The Good Ozone

Good ozone is a gas that occurs naturally in an upper layer of the Earth’s atmosphere referred to as the stratosphere. In fact, 90% of the earth’s ozone layer is located in the stratosphere. This stratospheric ozone is 6-30 miles high above the ground. Natural ozone creates a protective shield from the sun’s damaging rays onto the earth. Ultraviolet radiation, or UV rays, can create a host of health issues, such as skin cancer, cataracts and immune system impairments, if UV exposure is too high. Ozone is also commonly used in mold remediation and as an effective means of odor control.

In our modern technologically advanced society, man made activities have been depleting our ozone layer faster than ever. As our protective ozone shield becomes compromised, more UV radiation makes its way to the earth’s surface. Increased amounts of UV rays are exemplifying the detrimental effects on human, animal and agricultural welfare.

The Bad Ozone

Bad ozone is a gas that exists in the closest layer of the Earth’s atmosphere, the troposphere. This ground level ozone is a pollutant that creates damage to human respiratory systems as well as the environment. These ozone-depleting substances (ODS) consist of chemicals including chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and is the main contributor to smog. These gases come from vehicles, industrial facilities, electric utilities, gasoline vapors, as well as chemical solvents.

How Does the Bad Ozone Hurt the Good Ozone?

As human activity releases ODS into the troposphere, these harmful chemicals can remain in the atmosphere for years. The troposphere begins at ground level and extends about 6 miles until it hits the stratosphere. The harmful substances can move through the troposphere and up into the stratosphere. There the sun’s strong UV rays break them down, releasing molecules of chlorine and bromine that eventually destroy the good ozone. Scientific research estimates one human-introduced chlorine atom has the ability to destroy 100,000 natural good ozone molecules.

Health Effects of Bad Ozone

Since bad ozone is a pollutant, inhaling it can cause health problems. Some of the symptoms of ozone exposure include coughing, congestion, throat irritation, and chest pain. Bronchitis, asthma, and emphysema can be aggravated due to ground-level ozone exposure.

Environmental Effects of Bad Ozone

Bad ozone does not only cause adverse effects to human health, it also causes environmental problems. ODS can greatly damage the ecosystem, vegetation, agricultural crops, commercial forests, and tree seedlings. In the United States, an estimate of $500 million worth of crop reduction is brought about by bad ozone each year. In addition, scientists believe that even ocean phytoplankton can be affected. Since it is the base of the marine food chain, its detriment could also affect larger aquatic life and food supplies for humans.

Fighting for Good Ozone

180 different countries, including the US, have acknowledged the threat of depleting stratospheric ozone and are determined to protect it. In 1987, the Montreal Protocol was established to phase out the manufacturing and usage of ODS. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has prohibited both nonessential uses of ozone-depleting chemicals and releases of refrigerator or air conditioning refrigerants into the air. Substitutes are in the development process. And if these efforts continue to eliminate ODS, a return of our protective ozone layer is estimated for 2050.

(2010) Good Up High. Retrieved August 26, 2010.

(2010) Bad Nearby. Retrieved August 26, 2010.

(2010) Ozone. Retrieved August 26, 2010.


  • Comment Link Pat Richards Monday, 21 February 2011 10:14 posted by Pat Richards

    Very interesting. I've always heard that harmful things deplete the ozone (which is bad). But, I never knew that there was also a bad ozone. Good to know that when I refer to ozone, I should clarify what I'm talking about.

  • Comment Link Jay Brown Friday, 22 July 2011 12:17 posted by Jay Brown

    I wish major league baseball would pay attention to bad ozone. Roy Halladay nearly collapsed in Chicago in his last start!

  • Comment Link stephen Sunday, 17 February 2013 08:28 posted by stephen

    Ozone has a half life of @ 30 minutes, so it's needing to be constantly regenerated by the suns rays every hour. At night the ozone layer on the dark side of the planet gets thinner/weaker, when the sun hits the atmosphere it gets rejuvenated.
    Bad ozone is partly man made especially in areas of dense population but for the most part these ares are few and far between.
    Some wast water plants have ozone generators that constantly produce good ozone to kill the odors in the air in and around the plant. They do a good job. We could have tens of thousands of these world wide and it would help, but the sun is the best at it.

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