Ozone, also referred to as trioxygen, is a light blue gas having a distinctive pungent smell. The chemical formula of this inorganic molecule is O3. The chemical formula of ozone was agreed on in 1865. Much later it was proved that ozone molecule has a bent structure and it is diamagnetic.
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Basically, ozone is an oxygen allotrope, which is very unstable compared to oxygen - a diatomic allotrope with the chemical formula O2. In the lower strata of the atmosphere, ozone breaks down into the normal dioxygen. This allotrope of oxygen is present at all places in the stratosphere (Earth's atmosphere). This gas is formed from dioxygen as a result of atmospheric electrical discharges and also by ultra-violet (UV) radiation. Overall, ozone comprises just 0.6 ppm of the atmosphere.
Ozone has a sharp odour which reminds one of chlorine. Many people are able to detect the presence of this gas in the atmosphere even when it is present in very low concentration as 10 ppb. Under normal situation, ozone is a light blue gas, which condenses at increasingly cryogenic temperatures to form a bluish liquid and eventually, it turns into a violet-black solid. Compared to the standard dioxygen, ozone is very instable. In fact, concentrated gas as well as liquid ozone may break down causing an explosion when the temperatures are high or it rapidly warms up to its boiling point. Hence, this gas is only used in low concentrations.
It is worth mentioning here that ozone is a very potent oxidant, much more powerful compared to the normal dioxygen. As a result, ozone has several industrial uses as well as consumer applications that are associated with oxidation. While the oxidizing property of ozone is beneficial in several ways, it is also responsible for damages to the respiratory tissues and mucous in animals. The oxidizing property of ozone is also harmful for the plant tissues, especially when its concentration is around 100 ppb. This makes ozone both beneficial as well as harmful for all forms of life on this planet.
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Ozone has been identified as a powerful risk for our respiratory system and a major pollutant that remains close to the ground (in the troposphere). Nevertheless, the usual ozone layer, which forms a part of the stratosphere having a larger concentration of this gas, ranging from two ppb to eight ppb is helpful for life forms. This layer of ozone helps to obstruct damages caused by the ultra-violet rays of the sun from reaching the surface of the earth. This way ozone helps to shield plants, animals and humans from damages caused by ultra-violet radiation.
While conducting tests relating to electrical sparking over water in 1785, Martinus van Marum, a Dutch chemist, noticed a strange odour. Failing to recognize that he had actually created ozone via his experiments, Marum said that the smell was a result of the electrical reactions. About 50 years later, a German-Swiss chemist Christian Friedrich Schönbein also noticed a similar pungent smell while conducting experiments and identified it as the same odour that one smells following a lightning bolt.
In 1839, Schönbein was successful in isolating the gas formed during electrical sparking over water and called it "ozone". The term "ozone" has been derived from the Greek term "ozein", which translated into English means "to smell". Generally, people credit Schönbein with the discovering of ozone because of the above mentioned events. Although, ozone was "discovered" in 1839, its chemical formula, O3, was determined only in 1865. Jacques-Louis Soret determined the chemical formula of ozone, while Schönbein confirmed it in 1867.
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From the human viewpoint, ozone is helpful as well as harmful. It can be described as both - good and bad.
Ozone is always present in the stratosphere in small concentrations, which forms the upper strata of the Earth's atmosphere. The presence of ozone in the stratosphere is helpful for all life forms on the Earth, as it absorbs the sun's harmful ultra-violet radiation, especially UVB radiation which has the potential of causing cataracts and even skin cancer. At the same time, UVB radiation is harmful for some varieties of marine life and it also destroys crops.
When ultra-violet rays divide an oxygen molecule into two separate atoms, it results in the formation of ozone in the atmosphere. These single oxygen atoms attach with other oxygen molecules (dioxygen) to form one ozone molecule.
Destruction of ozone in the stratosphere leads to serious health risks for humans as well as animals and plants. At the same time, depletion of ozone layer causes environmental hazards for the entire planet. As a result, several nations have already banned or restricted the use of some chemicals, counting CFC, which are responsible for depletion of ozone in the stratosphere.
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Aside from the stratosphere, ozone is also found in the troposphere, which is closer to the ground. Troposphere is the lower most layer of the Earth's atmosphere. Different from ozone, which is naturally found in the stratosphere, the ozone present in the troposphere is man-made. In other words, this ozone is a fall-out of the air pollution caused by emissions and exhausts from automobiles as well as factories, including power plants.
Burning coal and gasoline results in the release of toxic gases like nitrogen oxide (NOx) in addition to various volatile compounds (VOC) into the air. In summer, spring and the beginning of fall, when the days are sunny and warm, more NOx and VOC may combine with oxygen to form ozone. In fact, high concentrations of this oxygen allotrope are formed in the air during these seasons, especially in hot afternoons as well as early evenings. Ozone formed in this way may disperse to larger areas afterwards in the evening when the air gradually cools down.
Synthetic ozone or the man-made trioxygen that appears in the troposphere is highly toxic as well as corrosive. In fact, people inhaling such ozone following repeated exposure to it may harm their lungs permanently or endure various respiratory infections. Exposure to ozone may also decrease the functioning of the lungs or worsen the already present respiratory problems like asthma, bronchitis or emphysema. In addition, exposure to ozone may also result in coughing, chest pain, throat congestion or irritation.
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Ground-level ozone has an extremely negative effect on our health. It is especially hazardous for people who exercise, work or spend much time outdoors when the weather is warm. In fact, compared to others, elderly people and children are more vulnerable to the negative effects of ground-level ozone. This is mainly owing to the fact that the lung capacity of people in these age groups is likely to be lesser compared to others.
Aside from the adverse effects on the health of humans, ground-level ozone is also dangerous for animals and plants. This type of ozone destroys the ecosystem and reduces the yields of crops as well as forest produce. Moreover, ground-level ozone destroys several seedlings and is harmful for foliage, which makes the trees further vulnerable to various diseases, pest invasions and even unkind weather.
Various terms, including O3 therapy and oxygen healing, are used to denote ozone therapy. In fact, people have been practicing ozone therapy since the middle of the 19th century. In present times, it is classified as a naturopathic medical treatment.
Despite being used widely, as of now the benefits of ozone therapy have not been tested scientifically. Nevertheless, it is believed that this naturopathic medical treatment offers numerous health benefits when it is monitored as well as accurate doses are administered. Ozone therapy is a form of alternative medicine that is considered to be a potently anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal substance that possesses the aptitude to detoxify the body in addition to cleansing the lymphatic system.
The chemical structure of ozone includes three oxygen molecules. On the other hand, the oxygen we inhale contains two molecules. Hence, it is believed that ozone is an extremely energized form of oxygen. Ozone therapy or oxygen healing aims to improve circulation as well as the ability of our body to process and utilize oxygen inside the tissues and organs. In addition, it is thought to enhance the dilation of the arterial walls and relax them, thereby lessening the chances of developing blocked or clogged arteries. At the same time, ozone therapy is believed to aid in stabilizing the immune system, particularly for people who are enduring allergic conditions or autoimmune diseases.
During the course of oxygen healing, pure form of ozone is introduced in the patient's body. Introduction of this ozone is said to provide several benefits of this naturopathic medical treatment.
Ozone therapy is said to be an effective alternative treatment for chronic fatigue. When treating chronic fatigue, pure ozone is introduced to various parts of the body, especially the part where one experiences the low energy. Findings of studies have shown that the symptoms related to chronic fatigue completely vanished following administration of ozone therapy.
It is believed that ozone therapy helps to enhance the amount of oxygen that is available in the body. Consequently, it facilitates the body to detoxify itself naturally. At the same time, more availability of oxygen in the body may lessen the poisoning due to carbon monoxide inhalation.
When pure form of ozone is introduced into the body during ozone therapy, it helps to augment the absorption of oxygen into the blood stream, resulting in an enhanced blood circulation. As a result, much more oxygen is reached to the tissues and various organs of the body. Ozone also helps to improve the suppleness as well as flexibility of erythrocytes (red blood cells). Consequently, it significantly helps in transporting the red blood cells via the tiny capillaries, which makes blood circulation further efficient.
Aside from the red blood cells, ozone therapy also stimulates the production of leucocytes (white blood cells), which are essential for combating various infections. In addition, ozone also possesses anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties that help to reinforce the immune system. By improving blood circulation, ozone therapy or oxygen healing facilitates the damaged tissues and muscles to repair more quickly.
One of the main benefits of ozone therapy is that this method of naturopathic medical treatment aids in loosening up and relaxing the muscles by means of diminishing the build-up of lactic acid. This helps the tissues to absorb and utilize more oxygen and aids in alleviating the aching muscles. Many athletes undergo ozone therapy or oxygen healing following their training session as it helps their muscles and tissues to recover more rapidly.