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What is air?

Even though we take around 26,000 breaths per day, we rarely stop and think about just what air is and where does it come from.

There is no chemical formula for air as it is a mixture of many different compounds with varying percentages thereof. The major components would approximately be:

  • Nitrogen (N2)                   78%
  • Oxygen (O2)                    21%
  • Water (H2O)                    <1%
  • Argon (Ar)                       <.9%
  • Carbon Dioxide (CO2)       <.4%
  • and miniscule quantities of others such as methane and helium.

In addition,  – there are particles of dust, pollens, bacteria, viruses and spores. Hence the current focus on “PM2.5” or Particulate Matter up to 2.5 microns in size.

How is air created?

Millions of years ago, the oceans were filled with bacteria or cyanobacteria. Through photosynthesis, these released oxygen into the immediate atmosphere, displacing carbon dioxide and altering the balance. Nitrogen was also being built up in the air by the reaction of sunlight on ammonia. Progressively, this led to our current oxidized atmosphere which is still maintained by the interaction of photosynthesis and animal respiration.

Is there ozone in our air?

Ozone is a molecule composed of three atoms of oxygen. Two atoms of oxygen form the basic oxygen molecule--the oxygen we breathe that is essential to life. The third oxygen atom can detach from the ozone molecule, and re-attach to molecules of other substances, thereby altering their chemical composition. It is this ability to “oxidise” with other substances that gives ozone its cleansing properties.


In summary then, air is a mixture of gases, water vapor, and other substances and has specific properties, or characteristics.

  • Air is made up of gases.
  • Air has mass.
  • Air exerts pressure and has weight.
  • Air can be compressed.
  • Air is impacted by temperature.
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