Ozone is a gas found in the atmosphere in trace amounts. Chemically, a molecule of ozone, represented as O3, is formed by three atoms of oxygen. While oxygen, also represented as O2, is essential for all aerobic forms of life, ozone has both useful and deleterious effects. Let us learn about Ozone and the depletion of the Ozone layer.
In the lower atmosphere of the earth, ozone is a deadly poison and seriously affects crop production, forest growth, and human health. However, at the higher level of the atmosphere, that is, in the stratosphere, ozone performs an essential function.
The ozone layer in the stratosphere shields the surface of the earth from the harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiations emitted from the sun by absorbing them. These radiations are highly damaging to all life forms.
Long-term exposure to these radiations can cause skin cancer and eye damage in human beings. In the stratosphere, the high-energy ultraviolet radiations split apart some of the molecular oxygen into free oxygen atoms. These oxygen atoms then combine with the molecular oxygen to form ozone.
What causes the depletion of ozone layer?
Let's learn the causes of ozone layer depletion. There are various human-produced ozone-depleting compounds generally described as halocarbons. Of these, we use chlorofluorocarbons in refrigerators and air conditioners. When this chlorofluorocarbon reaches the stratosphere, it is broken down by ultraviolet radiations from the sun.
The carbon-chlorine bond breaks and this releases one chlorine atom from the chlorofluorocarbon molecule. The chlorine and bromine atoms released from these compounds are responsible for the breakdown of the stratospheric ozone.
But how? The free chlorine atom attaches to an oxygen atom from ozone, thus forming chlorine monoxide. This leads to the breakdown of ozone molecules. The radiations also bring about the breakdown of these chlorine monoxide molecules. The nascent oxygen atoms obtained by the splitting of ozone may bond with the oxygen atoms from chlorine monoxide to form molecular oxygen.
The ozone destruction is a catalytic process, meaning that the same chlorine atom keeps destroying other ozone molecules until it is removed from the stratosphere by other reactions. This way the concentration of ozone goes down in the stratosphere in the atmosphere. This depletion of the ozone layer results in the formation of an ozone hole which is a serious environmental issue of the present times.
Effects of ozone layer depletion
The ozone layer's depletion has negative effects on the environment. Let's look at the key effects of ozone depletion on humans and the environment.
Effects of ozone depletion on human Health�
Due to the ozone layer's depletion, people will be directly exposed to the sun's dangerous UV radiation. Humans may have major health problems as a result, including skin illnesses, cancer, sunburns, cataracts, rapid aging, and a weakened immune system.
Effects of ozone depletion on animal�
In animals, direct exposure to UV light causes skin and eye cancer.
Effects of ozone depletion on the environment
Plants may have little growth, flowering, and photosynthesis as a result of strong ultraviolet light. The forest is also subjected to the harmful effects of UV radiation.
Effects of ozone depletion on marine life
Exposure to damaging UV radiation has a significant impact on planktons. These animals are at the top of the aquatic food chain. The creatures in the food chain are also harmed if the planktons are killed.
Due to the continuous depletion of the stratospheric ozone, the reach of harmful ultraviolet radiation on earth has increased thereby making the human population more susceptible to skin cancer and eye damage.���������
Did you know that the ozone layer is essential for life to exist?
Its molecules act as a shield protecting us from solar radiation. When the radiation reaches the ozone layer, it passes through the ozone molecules and these are responsible for returning part of radiation back to space, in this way the radiation that reaches us is minimized.
What is the hole in the ozone layer?
It is�a hole that allows the entry of large amounts of ultraviolet light�and it is located at the poles, on the Antarctic continent and the Arctic Ocean, being especially large during the spring of both hemispheres and resulting in longer summer seasons.
Why is the hole in the ozone layer harmful?
Although this hole is due to the natural fluctuations of ozone in the atmosphere, it is also caused by�human activities�which emit gases that end up in the stratosphere and�degrade the ozone molecules, increasing the size and effect of this hole�in the ozone layer.�This is an environmental and health problem since�the excess solar radiation is a threat to any form of life.
How can we protect the ozone layer?
1. Avoid the consumption of gases dangerous to the ozone layer, due to their content or manufacturing process. Some of the most dangerous gases are CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), halogenated hydrocarbon, methyl bromide, and nitrous oxide.
2. Minimize the use of cars. The best transport option is a bicycle or walking. If you use a car to a destination, try to carpool with others to decrease the use of cars in order to pollute less and save.
3. Do not use cleaning products that are harmful to the environment and to us. Many cleaning products contain solvents and substances corrosive, but you can replace these dangerous substances with non-toxic products such as vinegar or bicarbonate.
4. Buy local products. In this way, you not only get fresh products but you avoid consuming food that has traveled long distances. As the distance traveled, more nitrous oxide is produced due to the medium used to transport that product.
5. Maintain air conditioners, as their malfunctions cause CFC to escape into the atmosphere.