What You Should Know About Ozone Depletion
Summer is coming fast and in a lot of places it’s pretty much already here. So I have decided to refresh my memory (and perhaps yours as well) about a few main facts regarding ozone depletion. I am not trying to scare anyone off from going to the beach this summer (God know we get that enough from the doctors!), but merely provide a few facts for you to consider before you go and spend days out in the sun…
Here it is:
- Ozone is a layer of natural gas in the Earth’s stratosphere and it serves as a shield against sun’s ultraviolet B radiation.
- The layer is deteriorating quickly due to air pollution containing the chemicals chlorine and bromine, which is a common concern for many scientists since UV B rays can cause skin cancer in humans and even harm animals.
- The primary causes of ozone depletion are CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons)—chemicals found in spray aerosols used widely in the last 50 years. When CFCs reach the atmosphere, they are exposed to UV B rays, which cause them to break down into various substances, including chlorine. This, in turn, reacts with oxygen found in ozone destroying ozone molecules.
- One atom of chlorine can destroy a hundred thousand ozone molecules!
- CFCs were banned in 1996, thus the amount of chlorine in the atmosphere is falling but the scientists predict it will take another 50 years for it to return to its normal level.
- The ozone layer above Antarctic has been mostly impacted by the air pollution with its depletion reaching about 65%, while other areas in the world suffer about 20% ozone layer depletion.
If you think that it isn’t such a big deal and that the UVB rays are not the enemy everyone is trying to make them be, think of this:
- UVB rays slow down the reproduction of phytoplankton, such as algae, which may lead to the reduction of other animal populations.
- Reduction in the reproductive cycles of young fish, shrimp, crabs, frogs and salamanders exposed to UVB rays have also been documented.