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Ozone Depletion

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What is Ozone Depletion?

The ozone layer is renowned for its ability to absorb harmful UV rays that would otherwise be detrimental to the health of all walks of life. Without ozone layer, walking outside would be unbearable. Ozone is made up of three bonded oxygen’s that float up to the stratosphere where they absorb a substantial amount of UV radiation, protecting all life down below. However “ozone-depleting substances” (or ODS) primarily made up of chlorine and bromine find their way up to the stratosphere where they strip the O3 of an oxygen, destroying its capabilities of absorbing UV light. The result is devastating for plants that are extremely sensitive to UV light including wheat and barley, two indispensable crops to humans.


Causes of Ozone Depletion:-

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs):- Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are the primary cause for the ozone layer depletion. Industrial products including solvents, soaps, spray aerosols, insulating foams, ‘take-away’ containers and cooling utilities such as refrigerators and air conditioners use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Over time, these substances accumulate in the atmosphere are carried by wind action into the stratosphere.

Once the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are in the stratosphere, their molecules are broken up by the ultraviolet radiation from the sun which releases Chlorine atoms. The Chlorine atoms react with the Ozone, setting out a chemical cycle that destroys the good ozone. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that once Chlorine atom can break up more than 100,000 ozone molecules.

The ODS:-There are also other chemical substances that are generally grouped as Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). Examples are methyl bromide use in pesticides, methyl chloroform used on making industrial solvents, and halons used in fire extinguishers. Just like the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), these substances also chemically react with the ozone which starts a chemical cycle that break up the good ozone.

Other chemicals:- Other chemicals that naturally present similar reactions with the good ozone include Clx, Hox and Noy which belong to the Chlorine, Hydrogen and Nitrogen families respectively.


Effects of Ozone Depletion:-

Damage to human health:- If the ozone layer is depleted, it means humans will be overly exposed to strong UV light. Overexposure to strong UV light causes skin cancer, cataracts, sunburns, weakening of immune system and quick aging.

Devastation to environment:- Many crops species are vulnerable to strong UV light and overexposure may well lead to minimal growth, photosynthesis and flowering. Some of the crop species vulnerable to UV light include barley, wheat, corn, oats; rice, broccoli, tomatoes and cauliflower just to name a few. Forests equally bear the brunt of ozone depletion.

Impacts certain materials:- Materials like plastics, wood, fabrics, rubber are massively degraded by too much ultraviolet radiation.

Effect on animals:- In domesticated animals, too much Ultraviolet radiation could also lead to skin and eye cancer.

Threat to marine life:- Certain marine life, especially planktons, is greatly impacted by exposure to strong ultraviolet rays. In the aquatic food chain, planktons appear high up. If planktons decrease in number due to ozone layer destruction, the marine food chain would be disrupted in many ways. Also, overexposure of sun rays could reduce the fortunes of fishers. On top of that, certain species of marine life have been greatly affected by overexposure to ultraviolet radiation at their early stage.


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Solutions to Ozone Depletion:-

Prohibit the use of harmful nitrous oxide:- The Montreal Protocol formed in 1989 helped a lot in the limitation of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). However, the protocol never covered nitrous oxide, which is a known harmful chemical that can destroy the ozone layer. Nitrous oxide is still in use today. Governments must take action now and outlaw nitrous oxide use to reduce the rate of ozone depletion.

Desist from using pesticides:- Pesticides are great chemicals to rid your farm of pests and weeds, but they contribute enormously to ozone layer depletion. The sure-fire solution to get rid of pests and weeds is to apply natural methods. Just weed your farm manually and use alternative eco-friendly chemicals to alleviate pests.

Utilize environmentally friendly cleaning products:- Most household cleaning products are loaded with harsh chemicals that find way to the atmosphere, eventually contributing to degradation of the ozone layer. Use natural and environmentally friendly cleaning products to arrest this situation.

Discourage driving of private vehicles:- The easiest technique to minimize ozone depletion is to limit the number of vehicles on the road. These vehicles emit a lot of greenhouse gases that eventually form smog, a catalyst in the depletion of ozone layer.


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