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What is ozone depletion ?

Without our atmosphere, there would be no life on Earth. A relatively thin envelope, the atmosphere consists of layers of gases that support life and provide protection from harmful radiation. Ozone layer is a layer of the chemical ozone present in the atmosphere protecting the Earth from ultraviolet radiation. But atmospheric ozone layer depletion is a serious problem currently facing the world. The ozone layer protects humans, animals, and plants from harmful ultraviolet rays. Money and time are being spent on ozone repair, but the problem still exists.

The ozone layer is a region of the stratosphere containing ozone, or O3 gas. The ozone layer is essential to both plant and animal life on earth because it protects the surface from dangerous ultraviolet light. However, industrial and domestic chemicals that are currently in use have been found to destroy ozone, and the problem has intensified to an ozone layer “hole” above Antarctica. Ozone levels there are 40 per cent below normal, and there may be another ozone hole forming above the Arctic region.

environmentalproblems5 - Ozone Depletion 2

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Recently, a number of chemicals have been found to aid in the rapid destruction of ozone. Most of these chemicals are compounds called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. It is difficult to ban them out rightly because they have many industrial uses. CFCs are widely used because they are non-toxic, bib-flammable, and inexpensive. Recent environmental laws on both the state and national levels have banned the use of some CFCs, but the question of their disposal still remains. Chlorofluorocarbons however do not destroy ozone directly.

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There are a number of different CFCs. The compounds most responsible for ozone layer destruction are CFC-11(trichlorofluoromethane), C=CL3; CFC-12(dichlorodifluoromethane), CF2CL2; and CFC=113(1, 1, 2 trichlorotrifluoroethane), CF2CICFCL2. All of these compounds are excellent refrigerants. Some other non-CFC compounds that destroy the ozone layer include carbon tetrachloride (tetrachlorometqane), ccl4; methyl chloroform (1, 1, 1 trichloroethane), CH3CCL3; AND METHYL CHLORIDE (CHLOROMETHANE), CH3CL3

The result of ozone layer depletion is an increase in ultraviolet rays at the surface. Humans, animals, marine life, and plants are all vulnerable to UV radiation damage. Current studies indicate that ultraviolet rays could be disastrous to the marine eco-system. High UV concentration causes phytoplankton, microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain, to decrease their reproductive activity.

Numerous studies have proven that ultraviolet radiation, in both the UV-A and UV-B forms, causes skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation has effects on plants as well, though different species react in different manners. The ozone layer is an intricate problem since the atmosphere is constantly shifting and diffusing. When the planes release the gasses, they would react with the harmful chlorine compounds and reduce their destructive power. However, the environmental effects could be shocking and it would be a complex and costly project.

Another radical approach to CFC elimination is the use of lasers. Thomas six, a Princeton university physics professor says that lasers tuned to the right frequency can break CFCs apart without affection other atmospheric gasses. The disadvantage is the cost, which would be roughly 10 billion dollars a year in electricity. One alternative being studied by major U.S. research laboratories are aerogels. Aerogels are sol-gel substances that have the insulation shape and are stronger than Styrofoam. While aerogels share many properties with plastics, they cannot be shaped as easily. Therefore, until better manufacturing technology can be implemented, aerogels will remain experimental.

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There is no obvious solution to the ozone layer problem. It has been estimated that if CFC production ceased today’s, people living 70 years from now would still have to de4al with their effects. Also, conflicts between industrialists and environmentalists in government have prevented sufficient CFC blocking legislation from being fully effective. If the ozone layer can be repaired, it will take a massive effort by the people and government to make if successful.

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