Ozone is a record/CD store in Portland, OR. It has a huge selection of New and Used CD's, tapes, and vinyl. Name a genre, they have it, including industrial, punk, ambient, and SKA. They also carry posters, t-shirts, and assorted jewelry. This store was once known as The Ooze, and is the birthplace of Soleilmoon Records. This is a "must stop" place if you visit Portland and have a passing interest in the above genres. It is across the street from Powell's Books on Burnside.

The Layman's Guide to Ozone;
aka Ozone for Dummies:

Ozone is a molecule composed of three oxygen atoms. While oxygen normally combines in pairs of two, bombardment by ultraviolet light in the upper atmosphere causes them to form groups of three. Ozone is also formed during corona discharge.

Properties of Ozone:

Ozone has a sweet, saccharine-like smell/taste. It's rather toxic, even in small amounts inducing nausea and vomiting. Whee.
Ozone is also used to sterilize water, and sometimes air.

A final word of caution: Ozone is corrosive, just like normal oxygen.
Handle With Care!

Oxygen (a gaseous compound and a substantial component of the modern atmosphere) is composed of two oxygen atoms and is a waste product of photosynthetic processes, whereas ozone (which represents a miniscule amount of the atmosphere, but a substantial contribution to the blocking of UV light) is composed of three oxygen atoms. Ozone is generated from oxygen molecules in the presence of UV radiation (three molecules of oxygen break down and form two of ozone). Ozone then absorbs UV radiation and itself breaks down (two molecules of ozone reform into three of oxygen). This process occurs when the wavelength of the radiation is 200-300 nm (the most harmful to organisms), meaning the ozone layer protects living beings on the Earth’s surface from 95-99% of ultraviolet radiation by depleting it in this manner. Precambrian life is thought to have been tolerant to this level of radiation, although all other life forms were restricted to the oceans.

Aquatic photosynthetic organisms such as cyanobacteria began producing molecular oxygen from about 3,500 million years ago; until around 2,000 million years ago, however, this oxygen was expended in producing banded iron formations (alternating layers of oxidised iron and silica, evidence of the first photosynthetic life), meaning that none escaped into the atmosphere. Once a sufficient quantity had built up there, however, a layer of ozone began to form which protected the Earth’s surface from UV radiation. As oxygen accumulated in the atmosphere and the Earth was shielded from harmful levels of UV radiation, aerobic land-dwelling organisms came into being at the beginning of the Phanerozoic eon.

At present, the ozone layer is threatened by the enormous quantities of emissions being produced by industry. The destruction of ozone (as distinct from the greenhouse effect, referred to below) is perpetrated by gases that release chlorofluorocarbons (known as ‘radicals’), which were developed in the 1930s and subsequently became widely used as air conditioner and refrigerator coolants and aerosol can propellants, as well as miscellaneous other areas. The fact that they are non-flammable, non-toxic and relatively stable ensured their broad distribution.

Such was the seriousness of ozone degradation as a result of these emissions, though, that in 1987 the Montreal Protocol (signed by 150 nations, representing 95% of global CFC production). Said degradation has been markedly reduced by the introduction of hydrofluorocarbons (c. 1994) in air conditioning systems and ongoing efforts to create more environmentally friendly alternatives. This concern is very timely as although the ‘hole’ in the ozone layer is actually a thinning it is no less frightening, for it is currently the size of Antarctica.

It bears special mention that ‘ozone destruction’ is clearly distinct from the ‘greenhouse effect’, which concerns the trapping of heat by gases (from both natural and human sources) such as carbon dioxide, water vapour, methane and nitrous oxide. These gases are described as such because they trap heat in the atmosphere, simulating the conditions of a greenhouse on the Earth’s surface. The Kyoto Protocol, designed to curb this, has been less successful.


Good? Bad? Neither? Both?

Environmentalists are concerned about the hole in the ozone layer. At the same time, ozone is suspected of being hazardous to human health, and many cities rate the ozone level each day in order to keep citizens informed about whether, for example, they should run on a treadmill in the gym instead of running outside in the afternoon, especially for those with asthma. All in all, this little O3 molecule has sparked quite a bit of controversy.

So is ozone good, bad, or neither? Well the answer is....

It depends on where you're talking about.

More specifically, "where" means the distance away from the earth.

(This node is written from a scientific/chemistry background. I'll put in the reactions, but just skip over them if you're not interested - it will be understandable without them.)

Regions of the earth's lower atmosphere

The earth's lower atmosphere can be divided into two sections. The 10-16 km or so closer to the earth is called the troposphere, and the region farther away from the earth is called the stratosphere. This diagram shows a side view of the layers of the atmosphere and the earth's surface:

upper atmosphere

------------------------------------------------------------------------ even farther away from earth's surface

stratosphere, more than 10-16 km from earth's surface

------------------------------------------------------------------------ 10-16 km altitude

troposphere, closer to earth's surface

__________________________________________ surface of earth
earth, people, E2, etc

Quick answer: Ozone in the troposphere is bad because it is detrimental to human health. Ozone in the stratosphere is good because the layer of ozone located there blocks harmful uv rays from the sun. It is very, very important to remember that the stratosphere and the troposphere do not mix, so these regions can be treated as completely separate systems.

1. Ozone in the stratosphere

Oxygen in the stratosphere undergoes reaction via the Chapman Mechanism:

1) O2 + sunlight --> 2O

2) O + O2 + M --> O3 + M (M is a third body; it can be anything, even other O3.)

3) O3 + sunlight --> O + O2

4) O3 + O --> 2O2

Reaction 4, which breaks down ozone, is quite likely to occur through a catalytic free radical mechanism:

4a) X + O3 --> XO + O2

4b) XO + O --> X + O2

X can be any free radical catalyst, e.g., OH•, NO, Cl•, Br•, ClO•, BrO•, etc. (If you don't know what a free radical is, there's a great write-up about it, but for this explanation, free radicals are typically very reactive chemical species.)

Nitrogen oxides help to prevent the destruction of ozone by scavenging, or reacting with, these harmful free radicals. With the free radicals used up in other reactions, they're no longer available for destroying the ozone layer.

So what's the big deal about aerosol cans?

Aerosol cans can contain CFCs that can eventually produce halide (Cl•, Br•, etc.) radicals.

These reactions take place all over the world, but ultimately the hole in the ozone layer occurs only at the poles. Why?

Let's say you're at a mid-latitude type of location, for example, in St. Louis. In St. Louis, even though winter is cold, sunlight (or a lame excuse for a little sunlight) makes the atmosphere relatively warm during the day. So the reactions listed above can continue to occur, re-producing ozone at about the same rate that it is depleted. No problem.

The weather behaves a little differently in Antarctica. Darkness falls over the continent for half of the year. In the meantime, winds carry pollutants from the rest of the world to Antarctica. NOy compounds (nitrogen and oxygen-containing compounds) need to react with these pollutants to prevent the destruction of the ozone layer. However, the temperature drops much lower in Antarctica than in St. Louis! In Antarctica, clouds called polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) form. This doesn't happen in St. Louis because it's too warm. Basically, PSCs are clouds that have frozen.

But before these giant ice configurations finish freezing, almost all of the NOy is transferred into the water vapor that's in the air. Without NOy present, (reaction) can no longer take place to lead to the replenishing of ozone.

One example of a possible reaction cycle is:

5) ClO• + NO2 + M --> ClONO2 + M

6) ClONO2 + HCl --> Cl2 (gas that remains in the atmosphere) + HNO3 (freezes in clouds)

When the sun comes out in the spring, the sunlight can react with chlorine gas in the atmosphere to produce free radicals.

7) Cl2 + sunlight --> 2Cl• - The product is a free radical that can destroy ozone!

When the spring comes, it's a race: UV rays from sunlight will start producing chlorine radicals, but can the warmth from the sunlight melt clouds quickly enough to release nitrogen oxides to scavenge the free radicals?




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| Finish

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| UV rays

----------| PSC melting

(not to scale)

Ok, so the UV rays won.

Antarctica is a giant cold land mass that keeps the air above it very cold. The clouds don't melt fast enough to release the NOy back into the atmosphere.

Now, chemicals in the air can not react with nitrogen oxides, and as you can see from Reaction 7, this limitation can cause a problem.

Starting around October during the Antarctic spring, the ozone layer at the South Pole develops a hole.

The same phenomenon occurs at the North Pole, but to a much lesser extent. The North Pole has no giant land mass to keep the atmosphere as cold during the spring, so it heats up faster, releasing nitrogen oxides back into the air. So the North Pole has a much smaller ozone layer hole.

2. Ozone in the troposphere

Ozone in the troposphere has a bunch of adverse effects on human health that I'll let someone else write about. Two main byproducts of industry create more ozone in the troposphere: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and NOx.

Volatile organic compounds are defined as organic liquids and solids which have relatively high vapor pressures at room temperature (typically > 0.0007 atm).

NOx compounds are compounds that contain nitrogen and oxygen only. (e.g. NO, NO2, etc)

VOCs and NOx in different combinations can affect the ozone in the troposphere differently. Reducing VOC emmisions never hurts in improving ozone standards, but reducing NOx without reducing VOCs can actually raise the ozone level in a few cases.

Thus a good control strategy for reducing tropospheric ozone will involve the proper combination of reductions in NOx and VOCs.

From information from more specific research on combinations of NOx and VOC levels, scientists have compiled charts with lines called isopleths that indicate levels of ozone. These isopleth charts, which are a type of contour map, can verify the potential for an ozone increase if only NOx reductions take place, depending on the initial state of the system.


Turner, Jay, Ph.D. Environmental Chemistry (Chemical Engineering 443) lecture, Washington University, dates November 3, 10, 12, 19, 24, December 1, 2003

O"zone (?), n. [Gr. smelling, p. pr. of to smell. See Odor.] Chem.

A colorless gaseous substance (O) obtained (as by the silent discharge of electricity in oxygen) as an allotropic form of oxygen, containing three atoms in the molecule. It is a strong oxidizer, and probably exists in the air, though by the ordinary tests it is liable to be confused with certain other substances, as hydrogen dioxide, or certain oxides of nitrogen. It derives its name from its peculiar odor, which resembles that of weak chlorine.


© Webster 1913.

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