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Ozone Depletion

Science Behind Ozone Depletion

Dr. Abhinandan Bhardwaj PhD

 

Ozone is a relatively unstable form of molecular oxygen containing three oxygen atoms and is also known as O3. Ozone is created when atmospheric oxygen is broken down by sun's ultraviolet light, the freed oxygen atoms bond with oxygen molecules to form ozone.

Ozone near the surface of Earth is considered a pollutant as If ingested at higher concentrations it is known to reduce human lung capacity, as well damage the cells of living plants and animals. It is created from  industrial processes, transportation, and some natural sources. It is also one of the greenhouse gas which causes global warming.

However, Ozone in ozone layer ( Stratosphere) plays a very important role. The layer of ozone filters out incoming ultra violet radiation which are harmful to living cells.  Without ozone, life on Earth would not have evolved the way it has. The discovery of a large ozone hole over Antarctica and its association with man-made CFCs led the world to take action to protect the ozone layer.

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        How Ozone Layer is being affected?

Concentrations of ozone in the stratosphere fluctuate naturally in response to variations in weather conditions and amounts of energy being released from the Sun, and to major volcanic eruptions. However, in 1970s it was realized that man-made emissions of CFCs and other chemicals used in refrigeration, aerosols and cleansing agents may be causing a significant destruction of ozone in the stratosphere, thereby letting through more of the harmful ultraviolet radiation pass through it and reaching the Earth. In 1985 evidence of a large "ozone hole" was discovered above the continent of Antarctica. This hole has been growing larger and deeper each year. More recently, fears have emerged about significant ozone depletion over the Arctic, closer to the more populous regions of the Northern Hemisphere as well. It has been realized that Ozone layer is being depleted due to man made gas emissions such as CFC's.

What are CFC's ?

CFCs or Chlorofluorocarbons are widely used as coolants in refrigeration and air conditioners, as solvents in cleaners, particularly for electronic circuit boards, as a blowing agents in the production of foam (for example fire extinguishers), and as propellants in aerosols.
Man-made CFCs are the main cause of stratospheric ozone depletion. CFCs have a lifetime in the atmosphere of about 20 to 100 years, and consequently one free chlorine atom from a CFC molecule can do a lot of damage, destroying ozone molecules for a long time.


Why we need Ozone layer?

Protecting the ozone layer is essential. Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun can cause a variety of health problems in humans, including skin cancers, eye cataracts and a reduction in the body's immunity to disease. Furthermore, ultraviolet radiation can be damaging to microscopic life in the surface oceans which forms the basis of the world’s marine food chain, certain varieties of crops including rice and soya, and polymers used in paints and clothing. A loss of ozone in the stratosphere may even affect the global climate.

Montreal Protocol

In response to fears about more widespread global ozone depletion, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was implemented in 1987. This legally binding international treaty called for participating developed nations to reduce the use of CFCs and other ozone depleting substances. In 1990 and again in 1992, subsequent Amendments to the Protocol brought forward the phase out date for CFCs for developed countries to 1995.     more..

   

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