Special

International Ozone Day: Caring for All Life Under the Sun

September 16, 2017

Ozone is a naturally occurring gas that serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation emitted by the sun. Just as humans need sunblock, the Earth needs protection too. Hence, the earth’s sunscreen is called ozone layer. Most atmospheric ozone is concentrated in a layer in the stratosphere, about 15–30 kilometres above the Earth's surface. Today, there is widespread concern that the ozone layer is deteriorating due to the release of chemicals containing chlorine and bromine such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and other ozone-depleting substances (ODS). These were used widely as refrigerants, insulating foams, spray aerosols and solvents. Such deterioration allows large amounts of ultraviolet B rays to reach the Earth's surface which on overexposure can lead to skin cancer, cataracts and weakened immune systems. Increased UV can also lead to reduced crop yield, disruptions in the marine food chain and have other harmful effects to the ecology of this earth.

Although CFCs and other ODS are heavier than air, they are eventually carried into the stratosphere in a process that can take as long as 2 to 5 years. When CFCs reach the stratosphere, the ultraviolet radiation from the sun causes them to break apart and release chlorine atoms. One chlorine atom can break apart more than 100,000 ozone molecules. Other chemicals that damage the ozone layer include methyl bromide (used as a pesticide) and halons (used in fire extinguishers) which when are broken apart release bromine atoms that are 40 times more destructive to ozone molecules than chlorine atoms.

To combat the effects, an international treaty known as the Montreal Protocol was agreed on September 16, 1987, and entered into force on January 1, 1989. Presently, 197 countries have committed themselves to reduction in the use of CFCs and other ODS to protect the ozone layer. Best efforts were made to phase out the production of numerous substances and to substitute chemicals and technologies for all uses that are responsible for ozone depletion.

The theme for the 2017 International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer to be marked on September 16 is: 'Caring for all life under the sun'. This year, to mark the 30th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol celebration, the Ozone Secretariat in cooperation with the Government of Canada will host the Ozone Awards to be held in Montreal, Canada. This would recognize the achievements of individuals, groups and organizations that have demonstrated extraordinary commitment and contribution in the past 10 years.

Our individual efforts also will go a long way in saving the earth’s blanket and keep our planet earth liveable for us and our future generations. We can help in the following ways:

• Buy air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment that do not use HCFCs (Hydro fluorocarbons) as refrigerant.

• Do not buy aerosol products with CFCs. Although CFCs have been banned or reduced in many applications, the only way to be sure is to check the label on all your hairsprays, deodorants and household chemicals. Choose pump spray products over pressurized cans, to further reduce your chance of buying CFCs.

• Conduct regular inspection and maintenance of air-conditioning and refrigeration appliances to prevent and minimize refrigerant leakage.

• When motor vehicle air-conditioners need servicing, make sure that the refrigerants are properly recovered and recycled instead of being vented to the atmosphere.

• The most important thing that we can do is spreading awareness.

If we ALL play our part, our positive actions can definitely solve environmental problems.

 

 

By Sharon D'Souza
Sharon is from Mangaluru and is presently working as an Environment Consultant at Green Advisory, Bendoorwell, Mangaluru. She has completed her MTech in Environmental Engineering from MIT, Manipal and worked as a Senior Environmental Engineer at Vedanta Limited- Sesa Goa Iron Ore for 4 years. She is passionate about creating awareness on environmental issues and how each one of us could help reduce environmental impact at an individual level. She can be contacted at greenadvisory@3ekoolstof.com.

Comment on this article

  • Rita, Germany

    Sat, Sep 30 2017

    very informative.we should also think nowadays a lot of vegetables are produced in glas houses that requires warmth in cold days.and it produces some gas which harms envirement and Ozone .our sophisticated life makes it still worse.so lets buy vegetables which are grown only local not imported.better fresh than kept in Fridge for weeks.so that refrigator need not work more.
    thank you for your article.

    Agree [2]

  • Dsouza, Montreal

    Fri, Sep 29 2017

    Amazing article. Keep the good work going.
    God bless you in all the good work you are doing.

    Agree [1]

  • Sharon D'Souza, Mangalore

    Thu, Sep 21 2017

    Thank You all for the encouragement and valuable comments. The following is to share some facts and clear certain queries.

    Ozone is a gas composed of three atoms of oxygen (O3). The ozone in the Stratosphere that shields us from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays are constantly formed and destroyed in the stratosphere at any given time. The total amount, however, remains relatively stable. Recently, convincing scientific evidence has shown that the ozone shield is being depleted beyond changes due to natural processes. Over the earth surface, the ozone layer’s average thickness is 3mm (300 Dobson Units) and over the Antarctic, Ozone hole is an area where the ozone concentration has dropped to an average of about 1mm (100 Dobson units). [1]

    Chlorine and Bromine released from CFCs and other ODS have known to be the cause for this depletion. However, this must not be confused with chlorine from sources such as swimming pools, industrial plants, oceans and volcanoes that is easily dissolved in water and repeated measurements show that they rain out of the atmosphere, thus does not reach the stratosphere. In contrast, CFCs and other ODS are very stable and not broken down in the lower atmosphere and do not dissolve in rain. Thus, there are no natural processes that remove the CFCs from the lower atmosphere. Over time, winds drive the CFCs into the stratosphere. The CFCs are so stable that only exposure to strong UV radiation breaks them down. When that happens, the CFC molecule releases atomic chlorine. One chlorine atom can destroy over 100,000 ozone molecules. The net effect is that they destroy ozone faster than it is naturally created.

    We can't make enough ozone to replace what's been destroyed, but if we stop producing ozone-depleting substances, natural ozone production reactions should return the ozone layer to normal levels by about 2050. Our ignorance could result in additional damage and prolong the ozone layer's recovery.[2]

    References:
    1. NASA
    2. US, EPA

    Agree [6]

  • Dr.Anand & Geeta Pereira, Sakleshpur/Mangalore

    Wed, Sep 20 2017

    A timely article on Ozone and its implication. We need to understand that the ozone layer is responsible for the self sustaining Nature of our Green Planet. Any further reduction in the ozone layer will jeopardize many biotic systems, essential for the livelihood of billions of people on this planet. Thank you for researching this topic and elucidating actual facts.

    Agree [4]

  • HENRY MISQUITH, Bahrain

    Mon, Sep 18 2017

    Environment Consultant...
    I hail you strongly

    Agree [10]

  • Hxckgoog, Hxufifi

    Sun, Sep 17 2017

    Nice Article

    Agree [2]

  • Ivar, Mangaluru

    Sat, Sep 16 2017

    Good article Ms. Sharon.
    You have wrapped all the information very nicely. You should have added the thickness of the Ozone layer and how thin it is on arctics.

    I would like to make a small point, a food for thoughts. you may ponder about it at leisure.
    Chlorine is much heavier than all the gases in air. So as CFC and bromides. Majority of the world has not bought the theory of these gases reaching stratosphere as air packets. in air, the gas molecules are so kinetic that everything mixes into homogeneity in fraction of time. Even a strong fart in side a room melts away in a minute! Moreover, the rains bring down all the soluble and insoluble ones from the atmospheric air including Chlorine. So chances of airpackets containing CFCs reaching stratosphere looks remote. Moreover, does Ozone layer contain just O3 molecules or anything else?

    My point is that change is inevitable and is required. Climate change, depletion of Ozone layer, melting of arctic ice blocks etc are changes on the earth. The earth is not the same as it was 4.5 billion years ago. Someone in the past allowed the change and we are here today. Let us allow the change and make way to some one else ( may be a new species.. more tolerant human being who can withstand atmospheric differences as well as religious differences!!).

    Agree [12]

  • Boney Monteiro, Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 16 2017

    Simple and Very Informative Article!!!!

    Agree [7]

  • Pramod Pinto, Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 16 2017

    We have been abusing the environment in-spite of repeated awakening articles in different media's from time to time..We haven't been acting on it even a slightest bit..Hence we have been facing the consequences of drought, floods,smog etc..As its INTERNATIONAL OZONE DAY today, TIME TO WAKE UP and personally start taking care of the environment in whatever small means we can..

    Most Inspirational & motivational article Sharon....Kudos!!!!!!

    Agree [5]

  • Vijay Shetty, Bantakal, Udupi.

    Sat, Sep 16 2017

    Valuable information about nature environment, Love for our earth, Good one Sharon, keep it up...

    Agree [8]

  • Leo Victor, Hubli/Bantwal

    Sat, Sep 16 2017

    Good Article.

    THE PRESERVATION OF THE OZONE LAYER should be taken seriously.

    However, the gradual phasing out of controlled uses of ozone-depleting substances has not only helped protect the ozone layer for this and future generations, but has also contributed significantly to global efforts to address climate change. As a result, it has protected human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching Earth.

    Agree [9]

  • Elveera, kankanady

    Sat, Sep 16 2017

    Sharon, very well written, simple and easy to understand and very informative. Thank you.

    Agree [6]

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