Ozone layer depletion is one of the most serious problems faced by our planet earth. It is also one of the prime reasons which are leading to global warming. Ozone is a colourless gas which is found in the stratosphere of our upper atmosphere. The layer of ozone gas is what which protects us from the harmful ultraviolet radiations of the sun. The ozone layer absorbs these harmful radiations and thus prevents these rays from entering the earth’s atmosphere. Ultraviolet radiations are high energy electromagnetic waves emitted by the sun which if enters the earth’s atmosphere can lead to various environmental issues including global warming, and also a number of health related issues for all living organisms. Thanks to the ozone layer which protects us from these harmful rays.
From the 1970s the depletion of the ozone layer started to capture the attention of the scientists, environmentalists, and the world community at large. There had been a lot of research on this topic over these years to find out all the possible causes that lead to this problem and the effects of ozone depletion. There has been also a lot of research to find out possible solutions to this problem. Let us see some of the important causes and effects of ozone layer depletion
Causes of ozone layer depletion
The main things that lead to destruction of the ozone gas in the ozone layer. Low temperatures, increase in the level of chlorine and bromine gases in the upper stratosphere are some of the reasons that leads to ozone layer depletion. But the one and the most important reason for ozone layer depletion is the production and emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This is what which leads to almost 80 percent of the total ozone layer depletion.
There are many other substances that lead to ozone layer depletion such as hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Such substances are found in vehicular emissions, by-products of industrial processes, aerosols and refrigerants. All these ozone depleting substances remain stable in the lower atmospheric region, but as they reach the stratosphere, they get exposed to the ultra violet rays. This leads to their breakdown and releasing of free chlorine atoms which reacts with the ozone gas, thus leading to the depletion of the ozone layer.
Effects of ozone layer depletion
Let us see a few possible effects of the ozone layer depletion on the earth’s environment and also on the plants and animals. The depletion of ozone layer allows entering of UV rays from sun into the earth’s atmosphere which is associated with a number of health related and environmental issues. Let us see its major impacts on human beings
Skin Cancer: exposure to UV rays from sun can lead to increased risk for developing of several types of skin cancers. Malignant melanoma, basal and squamous cell carcinoma are the most common cancers caused by exposure to UV rays.
Eye Damage: UV rays are harmful for our eyes too. Direct exposure to UV rays can lead to Cataract problems, and also Photokeratitis or snow blindness.
Damage to Immune system: our immune system is also highly vulnerable to UV rays. Increased exposure to UV rays can lead to weakening of the response of immune system and even impairment of the immune system in extreme cases.
Aging of skin: exposure to UV rays can lead to acceleration of the aging process of your skin. This will result in you looking older than what you actually are. It can also lead to photo allergy that result in outbreak of rashes in fair skinned people
In humans, exposure to UV rays can also lead to difficulty in breathing, chest pain, and throat irritation and can even lead to hampering of lung function.
UV rays affect other life forms too. It adversely affects the different species of amphibians and is one of the prime reasons for the declining numbers of the amphibian species. It affects them in every stage of their life cycle; from hampering the growth and development in the larvae stage, deformities and decreases immunities in some species and to even retinal damage and blindness in some species.
UV rays also have adverse effect on the marine ecosystem. It adversely affects the planktons which plays a vital role in the food chain and oceanic carbon cycle. Affecting phytoplankton will in turn affect the whole ocean ecosystem.
UV rays will also affect the plants. UV radiations can alter the time of flowering in some plant species. It can also directly affect the plant growth by altering the physiological and developmental processes of the plants.
Effect of ozone depletion on environment
Ozone layer depletion leads to decrease in ozone in the stratosphere and increase in ozone present in the lower atmosphere. Presence of ozone in the lower atmosphere is considered as a pollutant and a greenhouse gas. Ozone in the lower atmosphere contributes to global warming and climate change. The depletion of ozone layer has trickle down effects in the form of global warming, which in turn leads to melting of polar ice, which will lead to rising sea levels and climatic changes around the world.
Ways to bring down ozone layer depletion
Ozone layer depletion is not something that affects any specific country or region. The whole world is vulnerable to its after effects. That makes it important for each and every one of us to take actions to reduce ozone layer depletion. International agreements such as Montreal protocol in 1987 have helped in reducing and controlling industrial emission of Chlofluorocarbons. More and more of such international agreements between countries is necessary to bring down ozone layer depletion. At individual level each and everyone also can contribute towards reducing ozone layer depletion. Buying and using recycled products, saving of energy, using of public transport can do a lot in combating ozone layer depletion. The most important thing that we can do is spreading awareness. Our individual efforts will go a long way in saving the earth’s blanket and keep our planet earth liveable for us and our future generations.
The ozone layer is what saves the Earth and the living organisms from the harmful radiations of the sun. It is necessary to understand its importance and work to control the depletion of this layer.