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PAN over the Atlantic and the smell of clean linen


OZONE, at concentrations in excess of 0.1 parts per million (p.p.m.), has been observed in the summertime air over southern England1. The most probable source is photochemical reaction among air pollution products. We therefore sought the presence of another characteristic product of urban atmospheric photochemistry2, peroxy acetyl nitrate (PAN). Preliminary measurements (S. A. Pen-kett and F. J. Sandalls, personal communication) show that PAN is present in the air over southern England. During episodes of increased ozone and other atmospheric pollution indicators the concentration increased, but as with ozone there was always a background concentration of PAN even in clean air arriving from the Atlantic. The voyage of the German Research Vessel Meteor from Hamburg to Santo Domingo in October 1973 presented an opoprtunity to discover whether or not there is a natural background of PAN.


  1. Atkins, D. H. F., Cox, R. A., and Eggleton, A. E. J., Nature, 235, 372 (1972).

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  2. Scott, W. E., Stephens, E. R., Hanst, T. L., Doerr, R. C., Proc. Am. Petrol. Inst., Sec. III, 37, 171 (1957).

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  3. Lovelock, J. E., Atmos. Environ., 6, 917–925 (1972).

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LOVELOCK, J., PENKETT, S. PAN over the Atlantic and the smell of clean linen. Nature 249, 434 (1974).

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