Ozone Layer Depletion

Sarah Coleman

What is the Ozone Layer? What's Happening to It?

The ozone layer, also called the ozonosphere is a part of the upper atmosphere that contains high concentrations of ozone molecules. The ozone layer in the stratosphere forms a thin layer that protects the Earth from the sun's harmful rays. The ozone layer protects radiations of certain types of wave lengths (less than 290 nano-meters) and UV rays from reaching the Earth, which could injure or kill most living things.

In the 1980s, scientists found evidence that the ozone layer was being depleted. Depletion of the ozone layer results in increased UV radiation reaching the Earth’s surface, which in turn leads to a greater chance of overexposure to UV radiation and the related health effects of skin cancer, cataracts, and immune suppression.

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What Are the Causes of Ozone Depletion? Effects?

One of the main causes of ozone depletion is from CFCs, which are a compound of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine, typically gases used in refrigerants and aerosol propellants. Scientific evidence indicates that stratospheric ozone is being destroyed by a group of manufactured chemicals, containing chlorine and/or bromine. These chemicals are called "ozone-depleting substances" (ODS). ODS are very stable, nontoxic and environmentally safe in the lower atmosphere. However, their very stability allows them to float up, intact, to the stratosphere. Once there, they are broken apart by the intense ultraviolet light, releasing chlorine and bromine. Chlorine and bromine demolish ozone at an extremely fast rate, by stripping an atom from the ozone molecule. A single molecule of chlorine can break apart thousands of molecules of ozone. Types of ODS are chlorofluorocarbons, halons, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, and hydrofluorocarbons. These chemicals are used a lot in our everyday lives, like in your car or refrigerator.

Ozone depletion can cause numerous amounts of harm to your health, like cancers, burns, aging, cataracts, blindness, and immunosuppression. Ozone depletion can also effect everyone worldwide. It can lead to reduced agricultural production, reduced number of vital species for food chains, and could effect the economy significantly.

What's Being Done To Prevent Ozone Depletion? How Can I Prevent It?

194 nations, including the US and Canada, have signed an international agreement to end the production of chlorofluorocarbons(CFCs), halons and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). The agreement is called the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (1987). The protocol has been amended several times, to speed up ODS phaseout dates and to include more types of ODS.

You can take part in preventing Ozone Depletion by not using CFCs in your household or car, and to be safe out in the sun. You can also subtly help prepare and prevent ozone depletion by reducing air, water, soil, noise or radiation pollution, protecting our food supply, improving safety in schools, public areas and the workplace, ensuring safe living conditions in housing, and promoting public health with a focus on environmental hazards. You can also reuse and recycle objects such as bottles. By reusing a bottle or recycling one, you can reduce the amount of smog released into the air from factories that make products such as bottles. (Of course, other objects can be reused and recycled as well.)

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How Can Environments Effect my Health Status?

Environments can easily effect your health status in a positive and negative way. Ozone depletion is one of the many examples of how your health can be effected negatively. Your health can start to be effected positively all starting with awareness and prevention. Communities with awareness and precautions can positively affect your health because you know what happens when environmental precautions aren't taken, therefore preventing your health from turning out for the worse. Without knowledge and prevention, your body could be obliviously decreasing the wellness of your health. It all starts with awareness.