What Have We Done to the Ozone?

What Have We Done to the Ozone?

Ozone depletion is still a problem.

The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of many different layers that act as a protective shield around the Earth. The ozone layer of the atmosphere contains a high concentration of O3 gas that absorbs harmful ultraviolet radiation or UV rays that the Sun emits before they reach the surface of the Earth. However, human activity has damaged the ozone layer, threatening its effectiveness of protecting us from the sun.

Each year, the Antarctic ozone hole develops due to the Sun’s UV rays reacting with ozone depleting substances (ODS). ODS include chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and halons that contain chemical pollutants such as chlorine and bromine which enter the atmosphere over time. During the Antarctic winter these holes expand due to the Antarctic polar vortex that sends cold air South. When temperatures start to rise in the Spring of the Southern hemisphere, the hole eventually increases in size. In 2021, the ozone hole was bigger than Antarctica.

The Montreal Protocol, which was ratified in 1987 by all 198 UN member nations when the hole was first discovered, is still regulating the products and consumption of over 100 chemicals and is continuing to add others to the list. The EPA is still educating the public on ozone depleting substances and has begun to phase them out.

But what can we do?

Although these substances are nontoxic to us, they are still present in many of our household appliances and products, especially older ones. Chlorofluorocarbons were created in the 1920s as refrigerants for many household items such as refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners and some of the newer models contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons.

The most important thing you can do is save energy and use appliances responsibly! Good air flow is critical in order for an appliance’s cooling systems to work so making sure to set the temperature of appliances to their optimal settings is the most effective. Cleaning out the refrigerator on occasion and avoiding air conditioner use all day are small ways to become more energy efficient.

Ozone layer depletion would alter the life cycle on Earth and would cause a huge problem for human and environmental health and individual action is a first step you can take to make a change.

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