Ozone is made up of three atoms of oxygen (O3) and occurs naturally in Earth’s upper atmosphere. The ozone layer protects our Earth from the harmful ultra-violet rays of the sun, thus preserving life on the planet. But there are certain chemicals which have been found to cause extreme damage to the ozone layer like fluorine, chlorine, iodine, and bromine. Some of the man-made chemicals, bromine, and chlorine, that contribute towards the depletion of the ozone layer, are methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, chlorofluorocarbons, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons. Therefore, to protect our ozone layer, by reducing the production of chemicals that cause ozone depletion, The Montreal Protocol was signed by 28 countries on September 16, 1987. To mark this day, World Ozone Day is celebrated annually across the globe. The theme for this year is “32 Years and Healing”.
Chemicals in refrigerators, air-conditioners and many other appliances are one of the major causes of depletion of the ozone layer. It has been shown that by phasing down hydrochlorofluorocarbons, up to 0.4-degree Celsius rise in global temperature could be avoided. Ozone depletion will not only impact us, but it will also adversely affect food chains, certain planktons, micro-organisms, life-cycles of plants and animals.
Some of the reasons why we need to protect the ozone layer is-
- Ultra-violet (UV) rays can cause skin cancer like malignant melanoma and skin burning called erythema.
- These rays also speed up the rate of skin ageing. Skin loses its elasticity and becomes dry, coarse and wrinkled.
- UV rays damage our immune system.
- Prolonged exposure to UV rays also leads to inflammation of cornea or photokeratitis, commonly called as ‘snow blindness’. This could cause temporary loss of vision.
- Chronic exposure also causes multiple degenerative diseases of cells, tissues and blood vessels.
How can we contribute to protecting the ozone layer-
- Use refrigerators and air-conditioners that do not use hydrochlorofluorocarbons as a refrigerant.
- Use aerosols and fire-extinguishers that do not use hydrochlorofluorocarbons or chlorofluorocarbons as propellants.
- Regular maintenance of appliances to prevent chemical leakage.
- Try to use eco-friendly ways to commute like walking, bicycles, public transport, etc.
- Use non-toxic, environment-friendly cleaning products.
This Ozone Day, let us pledge to prevent the ozone layer and spread the awareness.
Harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation. Council on Scientific Affairs.(1989),pubmed. Referred from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/
World ozone day.The theme for the World Ozone Day (2019, Sept) Referred from https://ozone.unep.org/ozone-day/32-years-and-healing
Guterres., General António. International Day for the Preservation
of the Ozone Layer, (16 September) Referred from https://www.un.org/en/events/ozoneday/index.shtml
Department of sustainability, environment, water, population and communities., Australian Government. (N.D) Referred from https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/pages/f0506eeb-72df-42d5-967c-08aadff97062/files/25anniversary-ozone-booklet.pdf