A gassy threat from above

In Earth’s atmosphere, nitrous oxide threatens the ozone layer

By Stephen Ornes, 15:42 PM September 16, 2009

In the chair at the dentist’s office, nitrous oxide is better known as “laughing gas”—it’s used to knock out patients during uncomfortable procedures. That’s not the only place where laughing gas shows up, however.

Nitrous oxide from Earth also ends up in the stratosphere, that portion of our atmosphere about 5 to 30 miles overhead. Up there, it’s no laughing matter. Nitrous oxide in the stratosphere is already dangerous for life on our planet, and according to a new study, it may become ...

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