Ozone layers are formed when the ultraviolet radiation from the sun hits stratosphere, which result in the splitting of oxygen molecules and atomic oxygen. Once the atomic oxygen combines with other oxygen molecules, ozone layer is then formed. At ground level, ozone is considered to be a health hazard. However, it was noted that humans cannot survive when the said layer is not present in the stratosphere (University of Cambridge, 2008, n. p. ). Importance of Ozone Layer
It has been well acknowledged that for millions of years, ozone in the stratosphere serves as protection of life forms on earth from the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays or UV-B from the sun. Normally, a healthy layer of the ozone intercepts about 90-99 percent of then said harmful rays before they reach the surface of the earth. However, within the past 60 years or so, the careless activities of humans have contributed to the depletion of the ozone layer (Welch, 2008). If the depletion of the ozone layer will continue, it is feared that there will be an increase in the incident of skin cancer.
Moreover, the increase in ultraviolet radiation would negatively impact food crop production and destroy phytoplanktons found in the ocean which are considered as the base of the marine food chain (Gamber, 2008). Ozone Hole Problem In the University of California, Irvine, two scientists named Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina theorized that the destruction of the ozone layer is caused by a simple chemical reaction coming from chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) released in the atmosphere (cited in Gamber, 2008).
The scientists published their theory in an article in Nature magazine in 1974. After its release, federal government initiated an investigation, and it was in 1976 that the research was validated (Rowland & Molina cited in Gamber, 2008). As there is a continuous usage of CFCs, the atmospheric ozone is destroyed, further causing the appearance of the ozone hole. In 1985, that the ozone hole was first discovered in the Antarctic region by a team of scientists from British Antarctic Survey named Joseph Farman, Brian Gariner, and Jonathan Shanklin.
Basically, the thinning of ozone in Antarctica is a natural phenomenon during winter, which is attributed to temperature decrease and constant patterns of wind. Yet, it was observed by the British scientist team that the layer of ozone is becoming a hole (Farman, Gariner, & Shanklin cited in Gamber, 2008). Geographically speaking, ozone hole is identified as the area wherein the total ozone amount is less then 220 Dubson units ” the measurement of the ozone amount on the earth surface (Welch, 2008, n. p. ). The normal measurement of ozone is 260DU around the equator and is higher elsewhere.
It was reported that over the past two decades, there has been a large fluctuation in the ozone holes measurement causing the steady growth in its size and length of existence (Welch, 2008). The depletion of ozone over the Antarctic is attributed to the continuous release of man-made chemicals containing chlorine like CFCs which can be used in refrigeration system, some product packaging, air conditioners, solvents, and aerosols. Compounds that contain bromine, nitrogen oxides, and other halogen compounds were also found to contribute in the depletion of the ozone layer (University of Cambridge, 2008).
Solutions Due to the observed changes in the ozone hole, the Montreal Protocol was agreed upon by 30 nations and was signed in effect on September 16, 1987. The protocol stipulated that by year 2000, compounds contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer will be phased out (Welch, 2008). Other European countries which recognized their responsibility for the environment have also adopted stricter policies which were not required by the Montreal protocol. In the beginning of 1995, they have halted the production of CFCs.
Likewise, they have adopted tighter deadlines for the usage of other compounds that contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. Currently, many countries are adopting laws that restrict the consumption and production of CFCs. Likewise, many companies are looking for CFC substitutes in order to reduce risk of the ozone layers total deterioration (University of Cambridge, 2008). With these actions being put forward, it is anticipated that ozone layer would be able to recover within 50 years (University of Cambridge, 2008).
Although there is a rampant use of CFC worldwide which makes it difficult to limit the consumption and production of such compound, this gesture of concerned individuals, countries, and organizations to initiate action to reduce activities causing ozone depletion is a great step towards saving the damaged ozone layer. The collaborative effort of these sectors serves as an encouragement for others to participate in identifying and controlling environmental issues before it is too late.