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Dioxygen is used in cellular respiration and many major classes of organic molecules in living organisms contain oxygen, such as proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and fats, as do the major constituent inorganic compounds of animal shells, teeth, and bone. Most of the mass of living organisms is oxygen as a component of water, the major constituent of lifeforms. Conversely, oxygen is continuously replenished by photosynthesis, which uses the energy of sunlight to produce oxygen from water and carbon dioxide.

Oxygen is too chemically reactive to remain a free element in air without being continuously replenished by the photosynthetic action of living organisms. Another form (allotrope) of oxygen, ozone (O
3), strongly absorbs ultraviolet UVB radiation and the high-altitude ozone layer helps protect the biosphere from ultraviolet radiation. But ozone is a pollutant near the surface where it is a by-product of smog. At low earth orbit altitudes, sufficient atomic oxygen is present to cause corrosion of spacecraft

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