Ozone in the Air

There has been a lot of focus lately on global climate change and global warming. While global climate change is a large, complex problem, it can be broken down into many subsections. In order to better understand some of global climate change, we decided to take a closer look at air pollutants, specifically ozone. What we found was that, generally, ozone levels were higher inside than outside.

However, to interpret ozone data, we must first have a basic understanding of ozone and if it is harmful or not. The slightly confusing part about ozone is that it can be both a pollutant and absolutely necessary for living organisms depending on the ozone’s location. If ozone is high enough in the atmosphere that humans do not breath in the air– up in the stratosphere– then the ozone is helpful. Up at these levels, ozone protects living organisms from UV rays by absorbing the UV wavelength and preventing these harmful rays from reaching the earth. However, ozone at lower levels closer to the earth’s surface is harmful. At these levels, ozone is low enough to be breathed in by living organisms, including humans. This type of ozone is harmful because is not naturally occurring. Ozone at ground level is formed when two other pollutants (nitrogen oxides and violate organic compounds) in the air react in sunlight, producing ozone. This ozone, since it is in the air that we breath, is actually harmful and can lead to lung damage as well as chest pain, throat irritation and shortness of breath.

From this experiment, we found out that ozone levels are higher inside instead of outside. While this was not what we were expecting, there can be several explanations. On the day of sampling, the temperature was cooler inside then outside, meaning there was less energy available for the creation of ozone outside. Additionally, most of the samples inside were taken in the science building where many instruments heat up. This could possibly give more energy to the air inside, which could produce more ozone. The EPA recommends only 0.075 ppm exposure to ozone over an 8 hour period. Based of this, both the indoor and outside were at safe levels of ozone since inside level was 0.071 ppm and the outside level was 0.060 ppm.

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