Good and Bad Ozone

Caption: Image of a very large ozone hole over Antarctica, September 2000.

You hear a lot about ozone on TV and radio. The ozone layer has a hole in it. There are high ozone levels in the air. This information can be very confusing. What is ozone, anyway?

Ozone is a gas. It is made of three oxygen atoms. It always has the same chemical structure, no matter where it is located. But location does matter if you're talking about "good" or "bad" ozone. Good ozone is found miles above the ground. Bad ozone is found near the ground.

Earth's atmosphere has many layers. The troposphere is closest to the ground. It reaches about six miles above the Earth. The stratosphere is the next layer. It stretches from about six miles to about thirty miles above the Earth. In the stratosphere, ozone is good. When found in the troposphere, it is bad.

Good ozone is made naturally in the stratosphere. It protects all life on Earth. Ozone absorbs most of the harmful UV rays from the sun. UV rays have negative effects on humans, plants, and animals.

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