Posted by: Steven M. Taber | March 24, 2008

Another Source of Ozone?

In the same month that the EPA announced (somewhat) tighter Ozone Standards, a team of scientists from University of California at San Diego published an article in the March 21, 2008 edition of the journal Science about their findings that a chemical reaction in the atmosphere above major cities long assumed to be unimportant in urban air pollution is in fact a significant contributor to urban ozone.

This chemical reaction, first suggested by German scientists in the late 1990’s, involves reactions between water vapor and NO2 in electronically “excited states,” produced when NO2 absorbs visible light between the wavelengths of 450 to 650 nanometers. Although the scientists do not discuss the policy implications of their research, if they are correct that this chemical reaction is a large contributor to the creation of ozone, it would seem that the importance of NO2 may be understated in the EPA’s analysis of the ozone problem and its development of the standards.

The research was funded by Petroleum Research Fund of the American Chemical Society and the National Science Foundation.

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