Before defining the ozone layer, let’s define what ozone is. As defined by the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), Ozone is a natural gas that is a highly reactive molecule and contains three oxygen atoms, while the ozone layer is ozone within the stratosphere, where over 90% of the earth’s ozone resides.
There was a time when the sun was not as scorching and the Ultra Violet (UV) rays did not pierce our skins so closely. That was before the depletion of the ozone layer. So what is the depletion of the ozone layer? In layman terms, it is the deterioration of the ozone layer as a result of several factors, but most importantly pollution. The leading cause of pollution is the CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons).
Yes! CFCs have been banned/phased out, but before this, they had already made their negative impact on the environment. CFCs commonly used for the production of air conditioners, insulating foams, soaps, aerosols, hair sprays, disposable plates, etc., are the major component for the production of several items. It was later discovered its usage caused a massive depletion in the ozone layer and other health effects, which lead to the ban across countries. When the CFCs were used, they were released into the environment, which was carried into the stratosphere. Then sunlight breaks the CFCs up releasing Chlorine (Cl) which then reacts with Ozone (O3) and deteriorates the layer, causing depletion.
Some other substances used in the production of various materials also have a lasting damage to the ozone layer depletion such as:
Methyl Bromide – Pesticides
Halon – fire extinguishers
Methyl Chloroform – Industrial solvents
Although high concentrations of UV light is dangerous and bad for the human skin, some of it is necessary as it produces Vitamin D which is an important vitamin.
Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion
1. Human Health:
- Melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer.
- Damage to the eyes and causes cataracts.
- Affects the immune system.
- Changes the genetic character.
- Premature ageing.
2. The Environment:
- Affects the developmental processes of plants.
- Excessive UV levels affect phytoplanktons (phytoplanktons form the foundation of aquatic food web).
- UV also affects the development stages of shrimps, fish, crab and other animals.
- Damages crops
- Disrupt marine ecosystems.
- Increases greenhouse warming by affecting the CO2 absorption capacity of plankton in the ocean.
- Melting of the polar ice, which leads to rising sea level.
- Climate change.
What can’t we do?
We cannot change what has been done. We cannot reverse the depletion that has occurred already, and we cannot induce the restoration of the ozone layer depletion.
According to United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA), one atom of Chlorine can destroy more than a hundred thousand ozone molecules. This is to further explain how the Cl from CFC’s usage really caused ozone depletion from years back. The lasting damage has been done and studies show it will take over 50 years for the ozone layer to restore itself and recover.
Now it is time for us to move forward! What can we do?
A. Reuse – Reduce – Recycle: Reuse materials to reduce the usage of new ones and recycle old ones.
B. Green energy.
C. Afforestation: Planting of trees.
D. Reduce pollution.
E. Avoid buying materials made from CFC.
Wear UV protection sun glasses and use sun cream when you stay under the sun to minimize the UV effect on your skin and eyes.
Photo Credit: Dreamstime