Understanding Ozone Depletion

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What is the Ozone?

The Ozone layer is a term that is used to describe the Ozone, which is a gas whose composition contains fewer than four atoms of oxygen, as it is combined with the stratosphere. When it comes to the planet we live on, approximately 90 percent of the Earth’s Ozone layer is harmful if breathed but protective in nature because it filters out ultraviolet radiation (UVB).

UVB poses a detriment to people and other living things such as animals and plants. Thanks to the Ozone layer, we are able to enjoy protection from UVB year round, whether it is summer or winter, but particularly in the summer months when tanning and other sun-loving activities are occasions where people want to bare their skin and soak up the sun’s rays.

What is Ozone Depletion?

When something is depleted, it means that the available supply is being used and that the contents of something are being removed. With respect to the Ozone, Chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, are broken down by ultraviolet light and work at depleting the Ozone layer. The most common CFCs are chlorine, fluorine and carbon. When CFCs interact with the Ozone, chlorine atoms are released and depletion occurs.

Refrigerants, foam-blowing agents and solvents are the types of compounds that commonly contain CFCs. The common types of CFCs, which have rather long chemical names, are typically abbreviated in the recognized forms as follows:

  • CFC-11
  • CFC-12
  • CFC-113
  • CFC-114
  • CFC-115

CFCs are not the only Ozone depletion substances (ODS). Halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, and methyl bromide are some of the most widely recognized ODSs. This means that although ODSs release bromine atoms instead of chlorine atoms, the effect on the Ozone is the same with depletion occurring.

What Does It All Mean?

Okay, so there are chlorine and bromide atoms floating around up there picking holes in the Ozone layer, which is in place to protect living organisms, including people, from harmful ultraviolet rays or radiation. But what does it all mean? What’s the point and why should you be concerned?

The Ozone layer is not optional in the protection it provides. Continued exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause damage to the skin as severe as skin cancer and can kill other living organisms such as plants. Thanks to many individuals, activist groups and scientists who are concerned, a CFC phase out is planned. Benefits of the phase out include:

  • New technological developments for computers and electronics that do not require ozone-depleting chemicals.
  • New energy efficient refrigerant and cooling systems that do not rely on CFC use.
  • Fewer cases of skin cancer over the next century.
  • “Healing” recovery of the Ozone layer by 2050.


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