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What is the Ozone Layer?

The English language can be confusing. I mean really, where do they come up with oxymorons like pretty ugly, vegetarian meatballs, jumbo shrimp, and even civil servant? And the definitions of words are constantly changing. I remember when bad meant wrong; sick meant ill; and thongs were flip-flops.

ocean_ships_sunrise_beach_rockes_colors_picOzone is one of those confusing words. One definition of ozone is in the stratosphere, the highest layer of the atmosphere that protects the Earth by filtering and absorbing damaging UV rays from the sun. That’s bad, and by that I mean good, right? We lived once in Australia where there is tremendous concern that there is a hole in this ozone shield which is causing a much higher incidence of skin cancers. The Aussie school children are required to wear large billed hats with a short curtain covering the neck to protect them. So this kind of ozone is definitely important.

A common usage of the term ozone defines the layer of air closest to the Earth containing pollutants formed by the reaction of sunlight with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides. Another name for this ozone layer is smog. You’ve heard the new watch words of greenhouse gases, global warming, and climate change? That would be this type of ozone’s fault. That’s bad bad, right?

The last definition of ozone is designated as O3, which is the purest form of oxygen. O3 is formed naturally when some bands of UV light interact with water vapor, such as waterfalls and ocean waves. Some reports indicate that this purer oxygen is part of the reason you just feel better at the beach; I know I do. Another natural source of O3 is in electrical storms and accounts for the chlorine-like smell that can often be noted during lightening displays. O3 is very unstable and only lasts minutes before returning to O2, and therefore cannot be stored.

O3 ozone is a powerful oxidant, and a number of positive uses have been developed to utilize its substantial qualities. There are now ozone devices small enough to be placed in your refrigerator that are effective in slowing spoilage and keeping foods fresh longer. O3 is a strong disinfectant and is now a regular add-on device to swimming pool and spa equipment, helping sanitize the water so the need to use harsh chemicals like chlorine and bromine is reduced. There are ozone generators used to purify and deodorize indoor air, helpful for those with respiratory allergies.

lightning_water_ocean_lake_clouds_thunder_strike_picIsn’t that interesting, good ozone being used to get rid of bad ozone? O3 has been found to be effective against bacteria, yeasts, molds, and even the dreaded parasites of Giardia and Cryptosporidium. An increasing number of water treatment facilities have included ozonation as an integral part of their processing routine. Many hospitals worldwide use ozone to decontaminate their operating rooms between surgeries. Noted oxidative therapy expert, Dr. Robert Rowan, says that ozone effectively inactivates viruses, even the ones that cause the dreaded Ebola.

So ozone can be bad-bad or good-bad, or even awesomely sick; and you can scrub the smog by ozonating the ozone.

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