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article imageSeaside Air Carries Unhealthy Whiff of Ozone

By Tea Lulic     Apr 8, 2008 in Health
It is come a point when what one thinks is healthy becomes unhealthy according to some. A new study says that breathing in seaside air is not so healthy afterall.
According to the study, mix of sea salt, ship fumes and city smoke leads to a chemical reaction which contributes to the development of ozone smog. A team of scientists led by James Roberts, from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colorado, has developed a spectrometer which is capable of measuring nitryl chloride. This is a chemical that encourages the formation of ozone and is formed by chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides (from ship exhausts and city smoke) with aerosol particles, which contain chloride (sea salt).
The team decided it would be great to cruise along the south-east coast of the US to determine how much nitryl chloride is floating around. They have found unexpectedly high levels of it.
"We saw nitryl chloride levels over one part per billion on several occasions, more than 20 times greater than previous estimates from numerical models," says Roberts.
Nitryl Chloride During the Night
The highest amount of nitryl chloride was noticed at night. However, during the day the action of sunlight on nitryl chloride broke it down into chlorine atoms and nitrogen dioxide. These chlorine atoms are the ones which encourage ozone formation. Usually ozone is present in the lower atmosphere, where it causes respiratory problems and high mortality rates in people.
Roberts says that areas that are at high risk are southern California, eastern seaboard of the US, as well as much of the Mediterranean and parts of southern Asia. However, it is too early to tell how widespread the pollution is in reality.
"Extrapolating the results to the global scale is problematic. It is possible, if not likely, that the overall importance of nitryl chloride is limited to heavily polluted conditions relatively close to major nitrogen oxide sources, such as those investigated in this study," says Bill Keene, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Virginia.
It shows that nitrogen oxide emissions need to be controlled more efficiently. However, some people live in highly polluted areas and just because the seaside air is not anymore as healthy as it was does not mean it is not healthier than the air one breathes in during the typical day in Toronto, for example.
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