What Is Ozone?

Ozone is a gas composed of three atoms of oxygen. Ozone occurs both in the Earth's upper atmosphere and at ground level. Ozone can be good or bad, depending on where it is found:
  • Good Ozone. Ozone occurs naturally in the Earth's upper atmosphere-6 to 30 miles above the Earth's surface-where it forms a protective layer that shields us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. This beneficial ozone is gradually being destroyed by manmade chemicals. An area where the protective "ozone layer" has been significantly depleted-for example, over the North or South pole-is sometimes called "the ozone hole."
  • Bad Ozone. In the Earth's lower atmosphere, near ground level, ozone is formed when pollutants emitted by cars, power plants, industrial boilers, refineries, chemical plants, and other sources react chemically in the presence of sunlight. Ozone at ground level is a harmful air pollutant.

This article was published by AirNow.Gov, copyright 2006.

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