Jun 07 2011

Don’t Breathe

Published by at 7:05 am under Weather & Sky

As if you have a choice!

Hot, sunny weather today and tomorrow will cook up a nasty brew of ground-level ozone in the Pittsburgh area.  PA DEP has cautioned that both days will be at the orange level:  unhealthy for sensitive groups. 

Ozone (O3) is an unstable gas that’s bad at ground level because it’s toxic but good in the stratosphere because it protects us from ultraviolet light.  It’s formed when UV light acts on oxygen (O2) and other constituents to create the three-atom structure shown above. 

If you have breathing problems, stay indoors. 

Funny how the chemical structure of ozone looks like it’s saying “Oh No!”

(ozone chemical structure from Wikimedia Commons)

p.s. For up-to-date information on U.S. air quality, visit the Air Now website.

p.p.s.  Today’s thunderstorms are keeping the air cleaner than expected.  Whew!

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Don’t Breathe”

  1. faith cornellon 07 Jun 2011 at 8:36 am

    I take note of all this info everyday. My husb. is on oxygen from a air converter but if I take him out on days like this I always make sure to check his oxygen level & use a portable tank if there is alot of junk out there you cannot see. We just always take our breathing so for granted and its worrisome when you see the chart change colors. But the air around here is ever so much better than in the 50s when I worked downtown. Not good for birds, weeds or flowers or insects. Be careful out there and use sunscreen. At least Kate you provide us with beautiful pictures of the weeds & birds & flowers and I thank you for it.

  2. John Englishon 07 Jun 2011 at 3:15 pm

    Indeed, today is rather pleasant. I have COPD and the HHH (hot, hazy, humid) days are not great. The only time I ended up in the ER was on one of those days. Heart was not getting enough oxygen :-/
    Be careful out there folks. Drink lots of fluids. Try to stay cool. Be kind to your pets. Check on your older neighbors.

  3. Joshua Schulzon 08 Jun 2011 at 10:23 am

    It’s kind of weird that your diagram of ozone doesn’t include the lone pairs on the end oxygen atoms. Furthermore, instead of one bond being double and the other being single bpth bonds are 1.5 because of resonance. Finally, it is also incorrect to put a positive charge on one, a negative on the other and leave the third neutral, also because of resonance. Sorry boar you out of your mind, I really like chemistry.

  4. Kate St. Johnon 08 Jun 2011 at 10:32 am

    Not bored but certainly out of my depth.
    I pulled the image from Wikimedia Commons. A link to the original image is on the words “ozone chemical structure” in the blog above. Maybe there’s info at that link that explains why they drew it this way. …If they explain it there, chances are I didn’t understand what they were saying.

  5. Peteron 08 Jun 2011 at 8:56 pm

    If Kate doesn’t mind a slight chemistry hijack, I think I can explain the structure above and the stuff Joshua was mentioning.

    As brief as I can be, both descriptions are correct, and there is yet a third common structure not shown here (but basically a mirror image of the one above.)

    Joshua was speaking of something that looks like this (minus the red data):
    http://bit.ly/lzrayd (wiki image)

    That picture is the 50/50 average of the two structures shown here: http://bit.ly/lYlXKp

    So both are correct. Why do chemists bother making so many pictures? Well, you can imagine it’s just not natural to think about things on the tiny, tiny scale of atoms and molecules. So we make pictures to help us understand the way atoms are bonded to form molecules and so that we can better envision the shapes of things. Those of you familiar with thalidomide (used to treat morning sickness in the 50s) are already aware of the consequences of the shape of something so small. And that was just the difference in shape between two mirror images of the same atoms! (but they weren’t the same, think about the mirror image of your right hand…it’s not the same as your right hand…it’s a copy of your left hand! Same shape, but not identical. Ever tried sticking your right hand in your left glove? :-) )

    If you take ibuprofen, the same thing is going on! A right and left handed version exist, and only one of them actually relieves pain. Lucky for us, the body ignores the other – the opposite of the case with thalidomide.

    Back to the ozone… Joshua’s picture gives a very good idea of the overall shape and electric charge of the molecule over a period of time. The structure Kate found is useful more for telling us how ozone will react during the instant in which it is reacting. Drawn in that particular fashion, chemists can then show several things:

    1) the mechanism by which ozone will interact with UV light high in the atmosphere (HOORAY! this is good and blocks UV radiation)

    2) how ozone will react with other chemicals in the air we breath (some are beneficial reactions, others are harmful)

    3) how ozone might react with tissues in our body, particularly our lungs which will bear the initial impact of what we will inhale.

    So it really depends what you’re doing with the ozone, how you might want to draw it. On the wikipedia page for ozone, there are several more pictures of it showing other properties chemists might be interested in. (I will vouch for the integrity of those images as of the time I write this. Some of the chem-related articles on wiki are pretty bad, this one looks decent and passes the smell test.)

    Now back to birds, and wildflowers, and peregrines (birds, but deserving of their own category, at least around these parts :-) )

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