Ozone Layer Poisoning

Ozone Layer Poisoning The poisoning of the Earths ozone layer is increasingly attracting worldwide concern for the global environment and the health effects of life on the Planet Earth. There is not just one particular cause for the ozones depletion; the accumulation of different pollutants into our ozone layer has all added up and equaled a worldwide problem. There is not just one effect from the poisoning of the ozone, but instead multiple ramifications from diseases to death. The damage to the ozone is increasing with every second; moreover, there are many ways we can help reduce the problem and preserve the ozone layer. Ozone is a pale blue gaseous form of oxygen, in chemical form it is also known as O3. Ozone can be beneficial or harmful depending on its location in the Earths atmosphere.

If the ozone is located in the troposphere (which extends from the surface of the Earth up to approxiametly10 miles) it is a harmful pollutant and a major component in smog and other environmental health problems. Such tropospheric ozone can damage plastic, rubber, plant and animal tissue. Ozone located approximately 10-25 miles above the Earths surface, in a part of the Earths atmosphere called the stratosphere is very beneficial. The ozone is a major factor that makes life possible on Earth. About 90% of the planets ozone is in the ozone layer.

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Ozone in this layer shields and filters out the Earth from 95-99 percent the suns ultraviolet radiation. A low level of ozone does not protect or prevent the suns ultraviolet rays from reaching the surface of the Earth, therefore, overexposing life on Earth causing many diseases. The depletion of the ozone is caused by many factors, but the one cause that will be elaborated on in the next paragraph is the main reason our ozone is continuously being poisoned. The major cause in the depletion of the Earths ozone layer is because of the release of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons also known as CFCs, are industrially produced chemical compounds that contain the elements chlorine, fluorine, carbon, and sometimes hydrogen that will break down the protective ozone in the atmosphere. Since CFCs are heavier than air, the process of CFCs reaching the ozone will generally take from two to five years to get into the stratosphere.

When CFCs reach the stratosphere, the suns ultraviolet radiation cause them to break apart. Therefore, the chlorine atoms inside the CFCs are released and will react with ozone, starting a chemical destruction cycle of ozone. To show the extent of destruction chlorine can produce, one chlorine atom can break apart more than 100,000 molecules of ozone. Chlorofluorocarbons are not naturally produced chemical, but shockingly are all man-made products. CFCs products and other ozone depleting substance are everywhere and come in all forms such as: aerosol spray cans, industrial cleaning agents, insulators, Styrofoams, coolants, auto air conditioners, home air conditioners and refrigerators (see next the pie chart on next page for more information). Majority of CFCs contributing to depletion is the auto air conditioners in our cars.

The CFCs inside auto and home air conditioning systems, as well as in refrigerators can leak out, and eventually will rise into the atmosphere destroying the ozone layer. According to Greenpeace, “The manufactures of CFCs and other ozone depleting products include: Dupont, Elf-Atochem, ICI, LaRouche, Rhone Poulenc, Nippon Halon, and Allied Signal” (Greenpeace). The total value of all the ozone depleting products since 1986 exceeded $30.6 billion, with the United States producing a large majority of the products. There are other elements and man-made chemicals that contribute to the ozone depletion. Any form of elemental bromine that reacts with ozone is very violotile.

For examaple, methyl bromide is a compound that is used as a pesticide and fumigant; the break down of bromine atoms in pesticides due to the suns rays, can be more than 40 times as destructive to ozone molecules than chlorine atoms. Halons which are used in fire extinguishers contain bromine and are also depleters of the ozone. Another product that is destructive is methyl chlorofoam, in which are solvents in industrial processes. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are known as HCFCs, they are categorized as class II ozone depleting substances because these products do not deplete the ozone as much as CFCs. HFCs are currently being used as replacements for CFCs, even though they deplete the ozone to some extent. Man-made chemicals are not the only way ozone depletion can occur; natural depletion is also a reason the ozone layer is thinning.

Natural depletion is another reason why ozone depletion takes place. Ultraviolet light in the atmosphere breaks down the ozone molecules into molecular oxygen and atomic oxygen, in a process called photolysis. Natural hydrogen oxides account for nearly 11% of all natural depletions. Nitrogen oxides are responsible for 50-70% of all natural depletions. Volcanoes and oceans naturally emit large amounts of chlorine, but they easily dissolve in water and are washed out by rain, therefore, the chlorine does not reach the stratosphere to deplete the ozone. Natural depletors are factors we really do not have much control over; however, we do have control over the man-made chemicals. The thinning of the ozone layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation is increasing and ramifications will have numerous worldwide effects on human life. Statistics and laboratory experimental studies have proven the increase exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause actinic keratoses, melanoma and nonmelanoma cancers. Excessive or even mild exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also cause eye diseases such as: cataracts (loss of focus in the lens which clouds vision), pterygium (tissue growth on the white of the eye that can block vision), skin cancers around the eyes, blindness, and degeneration of the macula.

According to the Envionment Protection Agency, “It is estimated that a sustained 10 percent loss of ozone could lead to a 26 percent increase in the number of cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer per year worlwide” and “At the same time, 1.6 million additional cataract cases per year could occur” (Envionment Protection Agency). The increase of ultraviolet radiation because of the reduction of ozone will also immune systlem suppression. Scientist have found that overexposure to the sun can alter the function and distribution of white blood cells (disease- fighting cells) in humans, resulting in a weaker immune system to fight diseases and a worldwide increase in sickness. Ultraviolet radiation also attacks DNA in individual cells, this process destroys the basic building blocks of life. The depletion of the ozone layer will just as dramatically effect plants as much as it would the humans. In plants and trees the increase in ultraviolet radiation will interfere with photosynthetic activity, metabolism, flowering, life cycles and growth.

The ultraviolet ra …


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