ozone layer poisoning

The poisoning of the Earths ozone layer is increasingly attracting worldwideconcern for the global environment and the health effects of life on the PlanetEarth. There is not just one particular cause for the ozones depletion; theaccumulation of different pollutants into our ozone layer has all added up andequaled a worldwide problem. There is not just one effect from the poisoning ofthe ozone, but instead multiple ramifications from diseases to death. The damageto the ozone is increasing with every second; moreover, there are many ways wecan help reduce the problem and preserve the ozone layer. Ozone is a pale bluegaseous form of oxygen, in chemical form it is also known as O3. Ozone can bebeneficial or harmful depending on its location in the Earths atmosphere. Ifthe ozone is located in the troposphere (which extends from the surface of theEarth up to approxiametly10 miles) it is a harmful pollutant and a majorcomponent in smog and other environmental health problems. Such troposphericozone can damage plastic, rubber, plant and animal tissue. Ozone locatedapproximately 10-25 miles above the Earths surface, in a part of theEarths atmosphere called the stratosphere is very beneficial. The ozone is amajor factor that makes life possible on Earth. About 90% of the planetsozone is in the ozone layer. Ozone in this layer shields and filters out theEarth from 95-99 percent the suns ultraviolet radiation. A low level of ozonedoes not protect or prevent the suns ultraviolet rays from reaching thesurface of the Earth, therefore, overexposing life on Earth causing manydiseases. The depletion of the ozone is caused by many factors, but the onecause that will be elaborated on in the next paragraph is the main reason ourozone is continuously being poisoned. The major cause in the depletion of theEarths ozone layer is because of the release of chlorofluorocarbons into theatmosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons also known as CFCs, are industrially producedchemical compounds that contain the elements chlorine, fluorine, carbon, andsometimes hydrogen that will break down the protective ozone in the atmosphere.

Since CFCs are heavier than air, the process of CFCs reaching the ozone willgenerally take from two to five years to get into the stratosphere. When CFCsreach the stratosphere, the suns ultraviolet radiation cause them to breakapart. Therefore, the chlorine atoms inside the CFCs are released and will reactwith ozone, starting a chemical destruction cycle of ozone. To show the extentof destruction chlorine can produce, one chlorine atom can break apart more than100,000 molecules of ozone. Chlorofluorocarbons are not naturally producedchemical, but shockingly are all man-made products. CFCs products and otherozone depleting substance are everywhere and come in all forms such as: aerosolspray cans, industrial cleaning agents, insulators, Styrofoams, coolants,auto air conditioners, home air conditioners and refrigerators (see next the piechart on next page for more information). Majority of CFCs contributing todepletion is the auto air conditioners in our cars. The CFCs inside auto andhome air conditioning systems, as well as in refrigerators can leak out, andeventually will rise into the atmosphere destroying the ozone layer. Accordingto Greenpeace, The manufactures of CFCs and other ozone depleting productsinclude: Dupont, Elf-Atochem, ICI, LaRouche, Rhone Poulenc, Nippon Halon, andAllied Signal (Greenpeace). The total value of all the ozone depletingproducts since 1986 exceeded $30.6 billion, with the United States producing alarge majority of the products. There are other elements and man-made chemicalsthat contribute to the ozone depletion. Any form of elemental bromine thatreacts with ozone is very violotile. For examaple, methyl bromide is a compoundthat is used as a pesticide and fumigant; the break down of bromine atoms inpesticides due to the suns rays, can be more than 40 times as destructive toozone molecules than chlorine atoms. Halons which are used in fire extinguisherscontain bromine and are also depleters of the ozone. Another product that isdestructive is methyl chlorofoam, in which are solvents in industrial processes.

Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are known as HCFCs, they are categorized as class IIozone depleting substances because these products do not deplete the ozone asmuch as CFCs. HFCs are currently being used as replacements for CFCs, eventhough they deplete the ozone to some extent. Man-made chemicals are not theonly way ozone depletion can occur; natural depletion is also a reason the ozonelayer is thinning. Natural depletion is another reason why ozone depletion takesplace. Ultraviolet light in the atmosphere breaks down the ozone molecules intomolecular oxygen and atomic oxygen, in a process called photolysis. Naturalhydrogen oxides account for nearly 11% of all natural depletions. Nitrogenoxides are responsible for 50-70% of all natural depletions. Volcanoes andoceans naturally emit large amounts of chlorine, but they easily dissolve inwater and are washed out by rain, therefore, the chlorine does not reach thestratosphere to deplete the ozone. Natural depletors are factors we really donot have much control over; however, we do have control over the man-madechemicals. The thinning of the ozone layer that protects us from ultravioletradiation is increasing and ramifications will have numerous worldwide effectson human life. Statistics and laboratory experimental studies have proven theincrease exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause actinic keratoses, melanoma andnonmelanoma cancers. Excessive or even mild exposure to ultraviolet radiationcan also cause eye diseases such as: cataracts (loss of focus in the lens whichclouds vision), pterygium (tissue growth on the white of the eye that can blockvision), skin cancers around the eyes, blindness, and degeneration of themacula. According to the Envionment Protection Agency, It is estimated that asustained 10 percent loss of ozone could lead to a 26 percent increase in thenumber of cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer per year worlwide and At thesame time, 1.6 million additional cataract cases per year could occur (EnvionmentProtection Agency). The increase of ultraviolet radiation because of thereduction of ozone will also immune systlem suppression. Scientist have foundthat overexposure to the sun can alter the function and distribution of whiteblood cells (disease- fighting cells) in humans, resulting in a weaker immunesystem to fight diseases and a worldwide increase in sickness. Ultravioletradiation also attacks DNA in individual cells, this process destroys the basicbuilding blocks of life. The depletion of the ozone layer will just asdramatically effect plants as much as it would the humans. In plants and treesthe increase in ultraviolet radiation will interfere with photosyntheticactivity, metabolism, flowering, life cycles and growth. The ultravioletradiation could get so high that it may start burning trees and eventuallyforrests, in the process destroying our sources of oxygen that we need tosurvive. The increase in radiation will start to diminish crops and other foodsources. Starting with the depletion of the ozone layer, the domino effect ofthe extinction of biological systems on Earth would continue to plants and thenon to the marine ecosystem. The effects of poisoning of the ozone layer willlash out on the marine ecosystem. The marine ecosystem would severely sufferfrom the thinning ozone and the increase exposure to ultrviolet radiation.

Starting with phytoplankton, the foundation of acquatic food chains, would loosetheir mobility, reproduction ability, a decrease in photosythetic activity andorientation in these small organisms. Scientific proof has demonstrated a directreduction in phytoplankton production due to ozone depletion-related increasesin ultraviolet radiation. Damage to the early developmental stages of shrimp,fish, crabs, amphibians and other animals has also been linked to ultravioletradiation exposure. Greenpeace said, a sustained 16% ozone depletion couldlead to a loss of up to 7 million tons of fish per year. Furthermore, thepopulation of all other animals would be in danger because of the diminishingsupply of smaller acquatic creatures. Animals, the most innocent victims of theozone depletion will have to pay for their lives first. With exposure toultraviolet radiation animals will eventually develop tumors similar disease tohumans, such as: eye tumors, to burning skin,changes in pigmentation, skincancers, and eventual suppression of the immune system. Domestic animals mayexperience loss of hair, cancers, light skin and eye diseases. Skin and eyestumors exclusively in cows, goats, sheeps, horses, dogs, and cats. Through thedirect effect of exposure to ultraviolet radiation and the indirect effects onthe limited food species further down the chain, most animals if not all wouldbe doomed. The retention our ozone is so important that every life form on Earthdepends upon the protection of the ozone layer, against the suns harmfulemmision of radiation. During the late 1970s, scientist discovered ahole in the ozone over the skies of Antartica. The holes in theozone in Antartica has increased since and only appears in the seasonalspringtime. According to Greenpeace, Measurements of ultraviolet rays inAntarctica in 1993 were 50% higher than in 1991 and 1992 (Greenpeace). Recentsurveys of the ozone layer in Antarctica, have been reported in the annualspring-time up to a 90% decrease in ozone. In Antarctica a decrease instratospheric temperature is a coincidence, with the general increase in thelower atmospheric temperatures. Some speculate this is because of the reducedozone above Antarctica and the carbon dioxide warming in the troposphere.

Antarctica is not the only place in the world with holes in the ozone, Canadaand the Artic also have their own ozone depletion worries. The Arctic and partsof Canadas ozone levels have increasingly dropped. According to theEnvironmental Protection Agency, one-third of the Northern Hemisphere isdepleted; ozone levels over the Arctic are at an all-time low of up to 45%depletion from Greenland to Scandnavia to Western Siberia. Over the last 30years, temperatures have been studied and determind that a 0.5 Celsius degreeincrease had taken place per decade. The Arctic as a result. has experiencedmelting ice packs, a weaker cooling trend, and a decline in actual ice area.

Parts of Canada has also experienced a drop in ozone levels by 15%. Scientistsfeel through the years 1998-2000 to be the most vulnerable period whenaccumalated atmospheric chlorine and bromine levels from human made elementswill be at its peak. One of the first major steps in trying to stop the ozonedepletion took place in September of 1987, negotiators from around the world metin Montreal to sign a treaty that limits the use of CFCs and halons. Soon afterthe minds of science gathered in Montreal, the Montreal Protocol was signed sothat in developed countries the production and consumption of CFCs would bediminished by the year 2000. The Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 was amended tocontrol ozone depleting chemicals in the United States. This Clean Air Actcreated an excise tax on all CFC products, that would increase year to year andgradually phase out the production of CFCs. The use of CFCs are currently bannedin the United States. In December of 1995 over 100 nations agreed to phasedeveloped countries production of the pesticide methyl bromide, predicted tocause about 15% of ozone depletion by the year 2000. The production of CFCs indeveloping countries will have ceased by the year 2010 (Greenpeace). Just acouple years ago on December 16, 1997 the Antarctica Protocol was finallyratified after six years of lobbying. The Antartica Protocol bans mining for aminimum of 50 years and designates the whole continent and its marine ecosystemas a natural reserve devoted to peace and science (Greenpeace). There aremany ways individuals can slow the rate of ozone depletion, through carefulproduct purchasing of appliances that do use ozone depleting substances.

Immediately repair any leaks in your refrigerator and make sure all CFCs arerecoverd and properly recycled before any refrigerator is scrapped. Avoid buyingall products that contain Ozone depleting substances such as: carbontetrachlorides in dry-cleaning agents, halons found in fire extinguishers,methyl chlorofoam in degreasers and propellants, and anything insulated instyrofoam. Consider alternatives to air conditioning systems in your houses,such as: insulating your homes, install fan cooling systems, apply coats ofreflective seal on your roof to keep heat out, and vents hot attic spaces to gethot air out of your homes. Be sure maintainance your cars air conditioningsystems so that no freon leaks. In conclusion, the protection and conservationof our ozone is vital for the continuation of all biological systems and lifeforms on earth. Even with all the laws and CFC bans, we must all contribute alittle something to nurse our fragile ozone layer back to health. If we decideto let things go on the way they are, extinction will start with the marineecosystems, then the plants will start to die out, the animals will starve ordie of diseases and eventually we will fall right in line as the final dominofalls.

BibliographyFiror, John. The Changing Atmosphere A Global Challenge. New Haven: YaleUniversity Press, 1990. 26-43. Stoker, Stephen. Ozone. Vol. 14. 14ed.

Chicago: Fetzer, 1996. 894. Environmental Protection Agency. OzoneDepletion. Internet Online. December 24, 1997. http://www.epa.gov/ozone/science/effects.html. Greenpeace. Ozone Depletion. Internet Online. date accessed: July 24,1999. http://www.greenpeace.org . Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 98.

Ozone. Computer program. 1998ed. Microsoft Corporation.


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