World Ozone Day is September 16, 2012 (Week #37)
The main causes of ozone layer depletion are:
• Water vapor (Nature and Man),
• CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbons, Man),
• Halons (Man),
• Carbon tetrachloride and methylchloroform (found so far in increasing amounts at lower altitudes, Nature and Man), and
• Bromine oxide (volcanoes), and bromine from manmade sources.
According to the EPA, because of the risks posed by ozone depletion, leaders from many countries decided to craft a workable solution. Since 1987, 191 nations – almost every country in the world – have ratified a landmark environmental treaty, the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. The Protocol’s chief aim is to reduce and eventually eliminate the production and use of man-made ozone depleting substances (ODS). By agreeing to the terms of the Montreal Protocol, signatory nations – including the United States – committed to take actions to protect the ozone layer, hoping in the long-term to reverse the damage that had been done by the use of ozone depleting substances.
The ozone layer protects the Earth from the ultraviolet rays sent down by the sun. If the ozone layer continues its depletion by human action at the current rates, the effects on the planet could be catastrophic.
The fact that the ozone layer was being depleted was discovered in the mid-1980s. The main cause of this is the release of CFCs, chlorofluorocarbons. Many CFCs have been widely used as refrigerants, propellants (in aerosol applications), and solvents.
Antarctica was an early victim of ozone destruction. A massive hole in the ozone layer right above Antarctica now threatens not only that continent, but also many others that could be the victims of Antarctica’s melting icecaps. In the future, the ozone problem will have to be solved so that the protective layer can be conserved.
The effects on human health range from skin cancer,cataracts, and other eye damage to immune suppression. The effects on plants and marine ecosystems disrupt developmental stages causing severe effects in reduced reproductive capacity and impaired photosynthesis to impaired larvae development.
This week’s practice: minimize your impact on the ozone layer.
What you can do to decrease depletion of the ozone layer:
- Use low or no VOC (Volatile Organic Compounds) paints, sealants or adhesives next time you decorate your home or make arts and crafts.
- Travel via airplane less, decrease your GHG emissions.
- Grow a garden; plant some trees, bushes or flowers.
- Do not purchase products with CFC’s or HCFC’s; try to use products, which are labeled “Ozone-Friendly”.
- Ensure technicians repairing your refrigerator or air conditioner recover and recycle the old CFC’s so they are not released into the atmosphere.
- Vehicle air conditioning units should regularly be checked for leaks.
- Ask about converting your car to a substitute refrigerant if the AC system needs major repair.
- Help start a refrigerant recovery and recycling program in your area if none already exists.
- Replace halon fire extinguishers with alternatives (e.g. carbon dioxide or foam).
- Suggest school activities to increase awareness of the problem and to initiate local action.
The Deep Dive: