The Poisoning of Our Ozone Essay

This essay has a total of 2139 words and 11 pages.

The Poisoning of Our Ozone



The Poisoning of Our Ozone Layer

The poisoning of the Earth’s ozone layer is increasingly attracting worldwide
concern for the global environment and the health effects of life on the Planet Earth.
There is not just one particular cause for the ozone’s depletion; the accumulation of
different pollutants into our ozone layer has all added up and equaled a worldwide
problem. There is not just one effect from the poisoning of the ozone, but instead
multiple ramifications from diseases to death. The damage to the ozone is increasing
with every second; moreover, there are many ways we can help reduce the problem
and preserve the ozone layer.
Ozone is a pale blue gaseous form of oxygen, in chemical form it is also
known as O3. Ozone can be beneficial or harmful depending on its location in the
Earth’s atmosphere. If the ozone is located in the troposphere (which extends from
the surface of the Earth up to approxiametly10 miles) it is a harmful pollutant and a
major component in smog and other environmental health problems. Such
tropospheric ozone can damage plastic, rubber, plant and animal tissue. Ozone
located approximately 10-25 miles above the Earth’s surface, in a part of the
Earth’s atmosphere called the stratosphere is very beneficial. The ozone is a major
factor that makes life possible on Earth. About 90% of the planet’s ozone is in the
ozone layer. Ozone in this layer shields and filters out the Earth from 95-99 percent
the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. A low level of ozone does not protect or prevent the
sun’s



ultraviolet rays from reaching the surface of the Earth, therefore, overexposing life
on Earth causing many diseases. The depletion of the ozone is caused by many
factors, but the one cause that will be elaborated on in the next paragraph is the
main reason our ozone is continuously being poisoned.
The major cause in the depletion of the Earth’s ozone layer is because of the
release of chlorofluorocarbons into the atmosphere. Chlorofluorocarbons also known
as CFCs, are industrially produced chemical compounds that contain the elements
chlorine, fluorine, carbon, and sometimes hydrogen that will break down the
protective ozone in the atmosphere. Since CFCs are heavier than air, the process of
CFCs reaching the ozone will generally take from two to five years to get into the
stratosphere. When CFCs reach the stratosphere, the sun’s ultraviolet radiation
cause them to break apart. Therefore, the chlorine atoms inside the CFCs are
released and will react with ozone, starting a chemical destruction cycle of ozone. To
show the extent of destruction chlorine can produce, one chlorine atom can break
apart more than 100,000 molecules of ozone. Chlorofluorocarbons are not
naturally produced chemical, but shockingly are all man-made products. CFCs
products and other ozone depleting substance are everywhere and come in all forms
such as: aerosol spray cans, industrial cleaning agents, insulators, Styrofoam’s,
coolants, auto air conditioners, home air conditioners and refrigerators (see next the
pie chart on next page for more information). Majority of CFCs contributing to
depletion is the auto air conditioners in our cars. The CFCs inside auto and home air
conditioning systems, as well as in refrigerators can leak out, and eventually will rise
into the atmosphere destroying the ozone layer.



According to Greenpeace, “The manufactures of CFCs and other ozone depleting
products include: Dupont, Elf-Atochem, ICI, LaRouche, Rhone Poulenc, Nippon
Halon, and Allied Signal” (Greenpeace). The total value of all the ozone depleting
products since 1986 exceeded $30.6 billion, with the United States producing a large
majority of the products.
There are other elements and man-made chemicals that contribute to the
ozone depletion. Any form of elemental bromine that reacts with ozone is very
violotile. For examaple, methyl bromide is a compound that is used as a pesticide and
fumigant; the break down of bromine atoms in pesticides due to the sun’s rays, can
be more than 40 times as destructive to ozone molecules than chlorine atoms. Halons
which are used in fire extinguishers contain bromine and are also depleters of the
ozone. Another product that is destructive is methyl chlorofoam, in which are
solvents in industrial processes. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons are known as HCFCs,
they are categorized as class II ozone depleting substances because these products do
not deplete the ozone as much as CFCs. HFCs are currently being used as
replacements for CFCs, even though they deplete the ozone to some extent.
Man-made chemicals are not the only way ozone depletion can occur; natural
depletion is also a reason the ozone layer is thinning.
Natural depletion is another reason why ozone depletion takes place.
Ultraviolet light in the atmosphere breaks down the ozone molecules into molecular
oxygen and atomic oxygen, in a process called photolysis. Natural hydrogen oxides
account for nearly 11% of all natural depletions. Nitrogen oxides are responsible for
50-70% of all natural depletions. Volcanoes and oceans naturally emit large amounts


of chlorine, but they easily dissolve in water and are washed out by rain, therefore,
the chlorine does not reach the stratosphere to deplete the ozone. Natural depletors
are factors we really do not have much control over; however, we do have control
over the man-made chemicals.
The thinning of the ozone layer that protects us from ultraviolet radiation is
increasing and ramifications will have numerous worldwide effects on human life.
Statistics and laboratory experimental studies have proven the increase exposure to
ultraviolet rays can cause actinic keratoses, melanoma and nonmelanoma cancers.
Excessive or even mild exposure to ultraviolet radiation can also cause eye diseases
such as: cataracts (loss of focus in the lens which clouds vision), pterygium (tissue
growth on the white of the eye that can block vision), skin cancers around the eyes,
blindness, and degeneration of the macula. According to the Envionment Protection
Agency, “It is estimated that a sustained 10 percent loss of ozone could lead to a 26
percent increase in the number of cases of nonmelanoma skin cancer per year
worlwide” and “At the same time, 1.6 million additional cataract cases per year
could occur” (Envionment Protection Agency). The increase of ultraviolet radiation
because of the reduction of ozone will also immune systlem suppression. Scientist
have found that overexposure to the sun can alter the function and distribution of
white blood cells (disease- fighting cells) in humans, resulting in a weaker immune
system to fight diseases and a worldwide increase in sickness. Ultraviolet radiation
also attacks DNA in individual cells, this process destroys the basic building blocks of
life.


The depletion of the ozone layer will just as dramatically effect plants as
much as it would the humans. In plants and trees the increase in ultraviolet
radiation will interfere with photosynthetic activity, metabolism, flowering, life
cycles and growth. The ultraviolet radiation could get so high that it may start
burning trees and eventually forrests’, in the process destroying our sources of
oxygen that we need to survive. The increase in radiation will start to diminish crops
and other food sources. Starting with the depletion of the ozone layer, the domino
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