Destroying the ozone layer

Vanishing Ozone

Imagine living on a hostile planet where just standing outside could kill you. The light source you use to see will also harm your body and gradually kill you. You don’t need to imagine; well, you don’t have to imagine. . . that planet is the very one we are living on,Earth!

Fortunately, our bodies have pigments that protect our cells from UV damage. Sunscreen can provide additional protection.

The sun, the star in the centre of our solar system, emits massive amounts of electromagnetic radiation. We see some of this as visible light, but a bigger amount of it is ultraviolet.

Light, also known as electromagnetic radiation, has properties that allow it to function as a photon and a wave. The varying wavelengths of these waves give rise to a diverse variety of electromagnetic radiation. Furthermore, light acts as a photon, affecting objects with precise energy levels that may injure your body’s cells.

herein lies the problem

Man’s introduction of industrial gases into the delicate system causes problems to arise. Ozone depletion occurs more rapidly due to this human activity than the natural production rate by the sun’s rays. Scientists started having concerns regarding chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) as early as 1974, identifying them as gases responsible for depleting the ozone layer.

Despite these findings, CFCs have become pervasive in various everyday products. They are essential in the manufacturing of diverse foamed plastic items, ranging from insulation materials to disposable cups and fast-food containers.

Furthermore, CFCs find application as propellants in aerosol cans, coolants in air conditioning systems and refrigerators, and as solvents for cleaning electronic devices.

Electromagnetic radiation (light) has qualities that allow it to function as both a wave and a photon. Waves of various wavelengths are responsible for the diverse range of electromagnetic radiation types. Light can also operate as a photon, which means it has a specific amount of energy when it strikes an item. This energy can be harmful to the cells in your body.

A photon is the energy-carrying property of light. The Planck-Einstein relation (E=hf) states that the energy (E) of a photon is proportional to its frequency (f), where h represents Planck’s constant. Ultraviolet radiation has a relatively high frequency and emits a large amount of energy, which can penetrate deep into the skin and destroy our cells.

Sunscreen is frequently touted as a way to prevent skin cancer and UV rays, but how does it work? Sunscreen works by blocking dangerous UV rays from reaching and harming our cells.

There are two methods for blocking UV radiation from our own cells: physical blockers that reflect the light and chemical blockers that absorb energy.

Physical blockers work by reflecting or dispersing light. UV light travels as a wave and, hence, can be reflected by some materials. Different sunscreen ingredients, such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, can reflect UV rays in the same way as different colours of paint can.

Reflecting the light keeps it from penetrating and injuring the skin.

One scientist recalled mentioning the potential danger by saying:

“I never had a moment of realization where I exclaimed ‘Eureka!’ Instead, one evening I arrived home and informed my wife, ‘The progress is promising, but it seems like the world’s end is near.’”

Although CFCs were initially praised for their non-toxicity and exceptional stability since their inception in 1930. Could that perspective have been mistaken?

The Predicted Threat

No. Apparently, they were all correct. CFCs continue to cause harm precisely because they are so stable. After leaking from abandoned air conditioners and crumpled plastic foam cups, CFCs gradually fly into the stratosphere. After being assaulted by ultraviolet light, they finally break up, unleashing a true ozone killer: chlorine. Its molecules perform a fatal dance with the fragile ozone molecules, killing them before spinning off to meet another unfortunate partner. One chlorine molecule may dance in this manner for nearly a century, destroying a hundred thousand ozone molecules.

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer

Dr. Michael Oppenheimer, an atmospheric scientist, says:

“These changes are going to affect every human being and every ecosystem on the face of the earth, and we only have a glimmer of what they will be.”

Increased UV-B radiation will kill the small krill and other plankton that reside near the ocean’s surface, upsetting the food chain.

A reduced ozone layer might cause widespread plant death, crop loss, and even changes in world wind and weather patterns. If any of these risks materialise in the following decades, it would undoubtedly cause problems for man and the world.

the ozone paradox

Ozone, the life-saving shield. Ozone is a toxic pollutant. You may have heard it described in these two ways. Which is it? Both! Ozone is a true lifesaver in the stratosphere. However, human pollution produces ozone in the troposphere. Humans emit large amounts of hydrocarbons into the atmosphere, primarily by burning petrol in cars. Sunlight reacts with these hydrocarbons to form ozone.

Ozone is not suited for human inhalation. Lung damage results from it. In fact, recent research has shown that it poses an even greater risk to human health than previously believed. To little effect, some have pleaded for stricter regulations on ozone pollution.

Perhaps you are aware of ozone’s dual role as a protective barrier for life and a dangerous air pollutant. In the stratosphere, ozone is a life preserver; nevertheless, its existence in the atmosphere signals the impact of human activity. When sunlight interacts with hydrocarbons that are excessively released into the atmosphere—most notably from petrol burning in cars—ozone is generated.

looking ahead

The anticipated rise in UV-B radiation levels hitting the Earth’s surface is projected to have extensive consequences. Among its effects are skin cancer in humans, impairment of the human immune system, and the development of cataracts. According to Science News, the augmented UV-B radiation is expected to result in the demise of 3 million individuals who are currently living or will be born prior to 2075.

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