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Ozone (O3)

Ozono (O<sub>3</sub>) - Erynoole

What is ozone?

Ozone is a molecule composed of three oxygen atoms, it comes in a highly unstable gaseous form. It gives off a characteristic pungent odor, which can be perceived during thunderstorms, due to the fact that ozone is produced by electrical discharges and lightning.

This gas is poisonous to living beings, including man, but at the same time it is essential for life on Earth, as it absorbs ultraviolet light in the stratosphere, especially UV-C rays from the sun and very harmful for living beings.

How is ozone formed?

Ozone is formed when oxygen molecules are found in the vicinity of electric discharges, sparks and lightning, according to the reaction 3O 2 → 2O 3

But it can also form as a result of reactions with pollutants that are produced by human activity, in fact it is produced through reactions involving sunlight and nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are produced respectively by the exhaust gases of means of transport and industries, and by the use of solvents, paints, prints, cleaning of fabrics and surfaces. These reactions, being catalyzed by sunlight, occur mainly during the day and especially in the summer months.

What kind of pollution does ozone produce?

Ozone is therefore formed more easily in large cities and industrial areas, where the presence of pollutants in the air is greater, especially in hot and sunny places, as sunlight is essential for its formation, but in addition to ozone other small polluting molecules are also formed, the final product of these reactions is called photochemical smog, of which ozone is the main component.

This type of pollution is characteristic of large urban and industrial areas, and based on its concentration it is even possible to see it with the naked eye, in fact in the most polluted cities and especially in the summer months, a yellow blanket can be observed. orange that envelops the cities.

Damage to human health

The presence of high concentrations of ozone in the air can be a public health problem, especially for those most at risk (children, the elderly and people with diseases related to the respiratory system), as its high oxidizing power is capable of producing more or less severe inflammation and damage to the respiratory system, depending on the concentration to which one is exposed, the duration of exposure and pulmonary ventilation.

Exposure to high concentrations of ozone can cause a reduction in lung function and the appearance of bronchial hyperreactivity, which manifests itself with respiratory symptoms such as cough, difficulty in breathing deeply, shortness of breath, but worsening of respiratory diseases may arise already in place such as chronic obstructive pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, asthma, pulmonary emphysema, as well as pre-existing cardiac pathologies such as myocardial ischemias.

Exposure to ozone can also cause decreased resistance to lung bacterial infections.

How to protect yourself from ozone and how ozone protects us

As previously mentioned, the ozone present in the stratosphere acts as a barrier against UV-C rays generated by the sun, intense and very carcinogenic radiation, living beings on Earth, especially humans, are in dire need of this protection for to live, it is therefore important to limit the amount of pollutants that "pierce" this barrier, forming the hole in the ozone. Fortunately, the use of these pollutants has decreased more and more and in a short time it has been possible to mitigate the damage caused to this fundamental barrier, making the hole in the ozone "close" or at least narrow.

A whole other question, on the other hand, is that of the ozone present in the troposphere, the portion of the Earth where we all live, and where billions of species of animals and plants live. We still have a long way to go before we can solve or at least contain this problem. The best way to lower the concentration of this pollutant is to reduce emissions, especially in the summer months, where the concentration of photochemical smog is at the highest levels and even walking around the city can become dangerous. Another thing that can be done is to protect ourselves and our loved ones, and we can do this through nutrition, in fact by taking more foods with antioxidant power (Vitamin C, Vitamin E and Selenium) the effects of exposure to ozone can be reduced, in healthy subjects.

This small molecule is both vital and deadly for us, depending on its position on our planet, it is up to us to protect and fight it, as our life and that of many animals and plants can depend on it.


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