The mere thought that there exists a layer that is strong enough to slash through the Sun and destroy life on Earth is enough to send chills down the spine. However, the fact that there also exists another layer strong enough to stop the former one is comforting. But what happens when the protective layer begins to diminish – little by little, right under our noses? One of the biggest phenomenon’s that marked the late 70’s was the observation of the depletion of the ozone layer. What is alarming is the fact that there is a remarkable decrease over the polar regions of the Earth. It is also the root cause of people developing health hazards like skin cancer and damages to plants and plankton as well as cataracts. Many governments have banned various harmful chemical releasing products in an attempt to prevent ozone depletion.
The ozone depletion has led to a worldwide concern
The ozone layer is our warrior against the mighty Sun that is bombarding earth with harmful UV radiation . Over the years, we are trying our best to protect it by taking many lucrative ways. Ozone is basically a gas also referred to as O3 which is formed and reformed constantly in our Earth’s atmosphere. If it were not for the ozone layer, our Earth would be barren with slight traces of life.
The main reason for the destruction of the ozone is due to man-made halocarbon refrigerants such as CFCs, halons and freons. When these are released into the atmosphere they produce ‘ozone depleting substances’ or ODS. These harmful substances strike the ozone and splits it apart.
It is also being said that the southern hemisphere of the Earth could have an additional 20% depletion of the ozone that could result in natural calamities like tornadoes, avalanches, fires, tsunamis etc. Here are five ways in which we can contribute to protecting the ozone layer and our precious Earth and how to prevent ozone depletion:
1. Limit private vehicle driving
One of the easiest ways to reduce damages caused to the ozone layer is by limiting the use of vehicles. This is because vehicular emissions eventually result in the release of smog. This in turn also damages the ozone layer causing it to deteriorate. If you are looking for ways on how to prevent ozone depletion, then you do have certain effective option. You can choose to take the public transport or use a bicycle. Another great way to restrict the use of car is by opting for Car Pooling. If you do want to use a vehicle, then it is recommended to switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle. Even better, you can opt for vehicles that run solely on solar power. Scroll to the end of the article for a list of the same.
2. Use eco-friendly household cleaning products
Usage of eco-friendly and natural cleaning products for household chores is a great way to prevent ozone depletion. This is because many of these cleaning agents contain toxic chemicals that interfere with the ozone layer. A lot of supermarkets and health stores sell cleaning products that are toxic-free and made out of natural ingredients.
3. Avoid using pesticides and prevent ozone depletion
Pesticides may be an easy solution for getting rid of weed, but are harmful for the ozone layer. The best solution for this would be to try using natural remedies, rather than heading out for pesticides. You can perhaps try to weed manually or mow your garden consistently so as to avoid weed-growth. Or else, try Urban Aerofarming, which requires less water, less space and little to no amount of pesticides. To know more about Urban Aerofarms, scroll down. You can check out the different DIY ideas to make your own eco-friendly pesticides at home to prevent ozone depletion.
4. Developing stringent regulations for rocket launches
The world is progressing at a drastic pace. As we progress on various scientific discoveries, the need of the hour also requires people to travel out of space. The number of rocket launches has increased drastically. This in turn is equally damaging the ozone layer in many ways. A study shows that the harm caused by rocket launches would outpace the harm caused due to CFCs.
At present, the global rocket launches do not contribute hugely to ozone layer depletion. Due to the advancement of the space industry, it will become a major contributor to ozone depletion. All types of rocket engines result in combustion by products that are ozone-destroying compounds that are expelled directly in the middle and upper stratosphere layer – near the ozone layer.
5. Banning the use of dangerous nitrous oxide
In the late 70’s the world was taken by surprise with a study that triggered a red alert pertaining to the destruction caused to the ozone layer. It had all the necessary information that helped us to understand what exactly was going on. Even the facts and figures mentioned in the study clearly pointed out towards the alarming rate of how the ozone layer was being depleted.
Nations around the globe got together in 1989 and formed the Montreal Protocol. The main aim behind this was to stop the usage of CFCs. However, the protocol did not include nitrous oxide which is the most fatal chemical that can destroy the ozone layer and is still in use. Governments across the world should take a strong stand for banning the use of this harmful compound to save the ozone layer.
6. Avoiding Ozonolysis Purifiers
Are we risking our health and environment with the development of new technology? We believe that air purifiers are an effective way to fight air pollutants but they can actually have the harmful effects, which we are not aware of.
New technology has allowed companies to make products which can “freshen” air by producing ozone which is not healthy to humans in large quantities. These ozone layers can actually react with existing particles in the air and make them more dangerous.
Excess ozone and high level of air bone particles can damage lungs, cause chest pain, coughing, and shortness of breath, throat irritation, asthma, lung cancer and cardiovascular problems
There are two types of air purifiers:
A commercial ionic purifier that emits about 2 milligrams of ozone per hour.
An ozonolysis purifier that emits about 100 milligrams of ozone per hour.
Ginsberg said“We are better off today than in the past, but we are not done yet. We still have many more chemicals to research and improve on.”
So, the public needs to be conscious of the fact that every air purification approach has its limitation, and ionization air purifiers are no exception.
7. Removing Kadzu
While the USDA and University of Toronto had revealed the biofuel-generating qualities of kudzu, the University of Virginia researchers sideline the green leafy vine to be an unending source of ozone. The nitrogen-fixing legume – native to Japan and southeastern China – doubles nitric oxide (NO) emissions from soils because of increasing nitrogen (N) inputs and cycling in soils. Consequently, the ozone level in ground-level goes up to cause asthma and cancer, and poses threat to crops, trees and other vegetation as well. The study was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this month.
Manuel Lerdau, an environmental studies and biology professor at the University of Virginia and one of the study’s authors, says “People worried about kudzu invasion previously were worried about its effect on biodiversity. We’re saying there are more worries about kudzu than biodiversity. It has an effect on air quality and human health.”
Three sites in Georgia’s Madison County were selected for researches involving the effects of kudzu invasions. A computer model revealed that kudzu could tally up to seven high ozone alerts each summer in some areas. As kudzu is now spreading northward, it could turn all of the United States into an afflicted zone.
Facts about Ozone Depletion you probably didn’t know
Three oxygen atoms combine to form a highly reactive molecule named ozone which is a bluish gas. At about 9.3 to 18.6 miles above the earth, there is a layer of naturally occurring ozone gas. This layer is known as the ozone layer. This layer protects the earth from the ultraviolet B radiation emitted by the sun. These ultraviolet radiations of the sun causes skin cancer and crop failure. Hence for the survival of life on earth, the ozone layer is essential. Since this layer acts as a protective cover, there are concerns surrounding the depletion of the ozone layer. These concerns are amplified by the fact that pollution caused by man’s gadgets are causing this depletion. The main reason for the depletion is ChloroFluroCarbon (CFC). Upon exposure to ultraviolet rays, the CFC breaks down into various substances which include chlorine. This chlorine reacts with the oxygen atoms in ozone, thereby destroying the ozone layer.
1. The Antarctic Ozone Hole
Depletion of the ozone layer was first discovered in the 1980s. The first region discovered to feel the impact of the depleted ozone layer was the Antarctic. Low temperatures in this region, further helped the CFC to convert to chlorine. When the sun shines for a long period of time in a day, the chlorine reacts with the ultraviolet rays to erode ozone on a massive scale. Some times, the erosion is up to 65% which is what is referred by some people as the ozone hole.
CFCs were mainly found in coolants, refrigerants, and various aerosols. When its effect were discovered in the Antarctic, the Montreal protocol was established in 1987 which resulted in reduction of the use of CFC.
2. The Arctic Ozone Hole
After Antarctic, now it is the turn of the Arctic to bear the brunt of the depleted ozone layer. Researches have found that during the spring of 2011, ozone destruction of about 80% was observed about 12 miles above the Arctic ice sheet in the earth’s stratosphere. This was the first instance of the ozone depletion affecting the Arctic region.
Polar Vertex which is a strong spin of swirling winds is caused by Earth’s rotation and by cold temperatures. Polar vertex blocks warmer air from the troposphere and keeps colder air in the stratosphere. This environment is conducive for the stable chlorine gases to break into chlorine monoxide which results in the depletion of ozone.
Winter and spring of 2011 witnessed an unusually strong polar vertex and a long cold period. This is cited to be the reason for the Arctic hole discovered this year. Till date, the scientists are still unsure for the reasons for the unusually strong polar vertex.
The low down
Ozone depletion has both merits and demerits. Ozone layer depletion is harmful not just to the environment, but to all living things from animals to humans. But ozone it self, when comes too close to earth can have delirious effect on both living and non living as it is a powerful oxidant. It can create pollutants like aldehydes and ketones when it reacts with the exhausts released from automobiles. Ozone also causes lot of health problems especially respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis.
Though there are both merits and demerits, the merits override. More harm is done in the absence of ozone layer as people will get exposed to UV rays. The effects of which can even be catastrophic like a weaker immune system, increased susceptibility to skin cancer, eye damage and cataract .
Ozone has been like a protective blanket around the earth and has enabled life to thrive on this planet. When this starts to deplete, all life forms will be affected which will have a big impact on the food chain.
Agriculture will also get affected. Yields of crops like corn, rice, soya beans, cotton will see a significant drop. Rice needs the help of Cyanobacteria for fixing the atmospheric nitrogen. These bacteria s are highly sensitive to the UV rays and will get killed when exposed to high doses.
Forest ecosystem and the biochemical cycles will also get affected which in turn leads to global warming.
The aquatic ecosystem will get affected as a number of organism from phyto planktons to cyanobacteria and even algae will die when exposed to high levels of UV. This in turn will disrupt the food chain.
The effect on health is also pronounced. Studies have shown that lethality of the diseases and the ease of their spread increases greatly. There will also be increased susceptibility to cancers, skin problems, respiratory disorders and eye problems.
It even affects materials like plastic. These materials will start getting degraded rapidly making them unfit for the use in building and constructions.