Ozone depletion is an environmental problem that many people do not take as seriously as they should. “The ozone layer protects animal and plant life from the sun’s harmful radiation. The depletion of the ozone layer will allow ultraviolet rays to, over time, lead to higher skin cancer rates, eye cataracts, and crop damage.” At ground level, ozone, a form of oxygen, is poisonous to humans and other organisms. It causes respiratory problems and damages plants. The greatest concentration of ozone is located in a layer of air called the stratosphere, some 10 to 30 miles above the Earth’s surface. About 90% of the Earth’s protective ozone layer resides in this level.
“The molecule, ozone, is produced in this layer by solar radiation. Before man was destroying the ozone layer, it went through a natural cycle in which ozone was both produced and destroyed in the stratosphere.” The total amount of ozone remained relatively stable. Each natural reduction in ozone levels was followed by recovery. In the past 25 years, however, scientists have discovered that the ozone shield is being depleted by means other than the natural cycle. “The problem was first noticed in 1976. Scientists in Antarctica noticed a ten percent drop in ozone levels during the Antarctic spring (September through November).
Each year another drop in the ozone level was recorded. The scientists published their data in 1985, reporting that since the 1960’s a forty percent loss in ozone had occurred over Antarctica during the spring months. In 1988 it was reported that ozone levels had declined over most other parts of the world, though not as severely as over Antarctica.” There are many causes that contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. One major one is the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This chemical is found in many household products all over the world.
CFCs are nontoxic, noncorrosive, nonflammable, and unreactive to most substances. Because of this, they were considered safe and widely used in refrigeration, as cleaning solvents in the manufacture of electronic circuits, as foaming agents in the manufacture of Styrofoam and other plastics, and as propellants of aerosol cans. Aerosol hairspray, any foam products, foam cups, any CFC containing chemical, and home insulation are all harmful products to the ozone layer. “Once these compounds are released they float into the atmosphere where they are broken down by sunlight. This causes the CFCs to break down into chlorine monoxide. One molecule of chlorine monoxide can destroy over five hundred thousand molecules of ozone.” “Approximately two billion pounds of CFCs are manufactured each year, with the United States producing one-third.” “If ozone conditions stay the same for the next 50 years or so, the ozone layer will continue to deteriorate; causing less oxygen, hotter temperatures, and an increase in skin cancer.” As a result to decreasing oxygen, humans will have more difficult time breathing, and there will be a major loss in plant life.
Some species that use a lot of oxygen to survive will die out causing problems in the food chain. Skin cancer will increase drastically. The ozone layer protects the Earth against dangerous ultra violet rays that cause skin cancer. If the hole in the ozone layer continues to grow, more UV rays will get to the Earth and cause more cancer. “According to EPA estimates, if ozone destruction continues at its present rate, there will be an additional 155 million cases of skin cancer and an additional 3.2 million cancer deaths in the United States during the next 100 years.” Prevention for the ozone layer is up to humans.
Ozone depletion chemicals should be no longer produced. “In 1987, the government responded to this problem by signing an agreement to limit the production of CFCs and other ozone destroying chemicals. However, this particular agreement has phased out over time and is no longer strongly enforced.” If industries would cease production of any ozone depleting chemicals, this would help tremendously. We can individually help this problem in many ways. Repair all leaks in the air conditioner system in your car and home, purchase non-aerosol items, avoid the use of Styrofoam products, choose non-CFC insulation for homes and businesses, carpool with friends to school to help prevent air pollution. “Another option that scientists suggested was sending huge metal screens up into the troposphere on helium balloons.
The screens will be electrified so that the chlorine molecules will be negatively charged and would then be unable to destroy the ozone molecules. However, scientists argue that this option is too expensive and nearly impossible to accomplish.” Ozone depletion, just like every other environmental problem, is life threatening. However, the ozone depletion is different from other problems because of its long-term effects. Since the ozone layer is such a necessity to the Earth’s life, it would do more damage if it were destroyed. The overall health of the human race would worsen and the life span would shorten.
For example, water pollution is a problem, however, there are simple ways to prevent it from causing a national threat. With the ozone, once the damage is done, it takes years and years for it to be restored. Whereas these specific areas of concern are the same in the way that they were both caused by man. Ozone depletion is a huge problem to our environment. The human race needs to realize this now, or the results of our ignorance will be devastating.
This is a very important issue because it has such an effect on the world already. This problem is not full blown yet and the Earth’s condition will only worsen if we don’t find a solution soon. Some excuses that the government and prestigious industries use is the financial costs of cutting CFC production. “However, in 1988, the Environmental Protection Agency projected that cutting CFC production by fifty percent over a ten-year period would cost more than three billion dollars. But by 1989, the agency determined that a one hundred percent phase out of CFCs would not cost even that much.” These estimates did not consider the billions of dollars in health and environmental damages that will be avoided by protecting the ozone layer. People need to consider who pays these costs, the polluters and the users of their products or society as a whole, by ignoring this problem? Ozone depletion stood out to me as an interesting problem that many people do not fully understand.
I am concerned about our environment and what we can do to resolve the damage we have done.