By Farah Hasan and Punit Kaur
What is the Ozone Layer?
The ozone layer is a layer in Earth's stratosphere that is located at an altitude of 6.2 miles. It contains ozone, which absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth from the sun. Ozone is a colorless toxic gas that has a pungent odor and contains powerful oxidizing properties. It is formed from oxygen by electrical discharges or ultraviolet light. It differs from normal oxygen (O2) in having three atoms in its molecule (O3).
What Causes the Hole in the Ozone?
The "ozone hole" is the recent depletion of the protective ozone layer over Earth's polar regions. Ozone depletion occurs when chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are released into the atmosphere. CFC's were formerly found in aerosol spray cans and refrigerants. These gases cause the ozone molecules to break down, reducing the ozone's ability to absorb ultraviolet radiation.
How Does the Hole Affect Us and Other Organisms?
Because of ozone depletion, there is less ozone in Earth's atmosphere to protect us from ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This means that more UV radiation can penetrate the ozone layer and reach the organisms down on Earth. This increase in radiation exposure can cause numerous health problems from eye damage to skin cancer.
What Can Be Done to Stop the Increase in the Hole?
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's) play a major role in the ozone depletion. Today, it is illegal to recharge refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners with CFC's. 194 nations have signed an agreement to end the use of CFC's. To make sure that Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) are recovered correctly, any technician working with these chemicals must be an "approved person."