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  • (O3) A highly reactive molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. Environmentally, ozone is important in two completely separate contexts—one, as a naturally occurring screen of harmful radiation in the outer atmosphere (i.e., stratospheric ozone), and two, as a component of polluting smog formed from emissions resulting from human activities (i.e., urban smog). In the stratosphere 7 to 10 miles above the Earth, naturally occurring ozone acts to shield the Earth from harmful radiation. In the 1970s and 1980s, it was discovered that emissions of certain chemicals catalyze destruction of stratospheric ozone, allowing more radiation to reach the Earth’s surface. The U.S. is a signatory to the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Ozone Depleting Substances, which bans or limits uses of chemicals whose emissions deplete stratospheric ozone. Among the chemicals being phased out as ozone depleters are chlorofluorocarbons used in refrigeration and air conditioning and methyl bromide, a pesticide. In the lower atmosphere (troposphere), ozone is a major air pollutant that contributes to smog, adversely affects human health, and is toxic to some plants, damaging forests and crops. Tropospheric ozone forms from reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the presence of sunlight. The precursor pollutants are emitted by combustion sources such as motor vehicles and utilities, use of solvents, and petrochemical facilities. Tropospheric ozone is regulated under a National Ambient Air Quality Standard.
  • O3, is a molecule that consists of three oxygen atoms bonded together. The ozone layer in the stratosphere absorbs UV radiation and creates a warm layer of air in the stratosphere and is therefore responsible for the thermal structure of the stratosphere. Ozone that is present in the troposphere is mostly a result of anthropogenic pollution and therefore higher concentrations are found in urban areas. Ozone is involved with NOx in the photochemical production of many of the constituents of pollution environments (see nitrogen oxides and hydroxyl radicals.) [Chemical and Engineering News; v72; 6-7; 1994.] [Aviation Week and Space Technology; v140; 20-21; 1994.] Source: Atmospheric Chemistry Glossary