New reactive chemical found in the Earth’s atmosphere

Known as ‘trioxides’, these highly reactive chemicals could be contributing to health and environmental problems.

Scientists had long suspected that trioxides – chemical compounds with three oxygen atoms – would one day be found in our planet’s atmosphere and now, thanks to the work of researchers at the University of Copenhagen, their presence has finally been unequivocally proven for the first time.

“We can now show, through direct observation, that these compounds actually form in the atmosphere, that they are surprisingly stable and that they are formed from almost all chemical compounds,” said study co-author Jing Chen.

“All speculation must now be put to rest.”

The existence of trioxides in the Earth’s atmosphere is concerning, not least because they are highly reactive and could be contributing to a whole host of health problems including heart and respiratory diseases.

It is also likely that they are having an effect on climate change.

“The type of compounds we discovered are unique in their structure,” said Professor Henrik Grum Kjaergaard of the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Chemistry.

“And, because they are extremely oxidising, they most likely bring a host of effects that we have yet to uncover.”

Further study will no doubt be needed to understand exactly what all these effects might be.

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