The Effects Of Ozone Depletion Essay

1590 words - 7 pages

The ozone layer is a deep layer in the Earth’s stratosphere that has an altitude of about 6.2 miles and contains a high concentration of ozone molecules. The ozone layer shields the entire Earth from some of the harmful ultraviolet rays that come from the sun. The Earth’s atmosphere is composed of several layers, but the layer that we live in - the “troposphere” – is where most weather occurs. Above the troposphere is the stratosphere which is where most of the effects caused by ozone holes and global warming originate. The ozone layer absorbs 97% to about 99% of the Sun’s medium-frequency ultraviolet light which could otherwise potentially harm and damage exposed life forms on the surface of the Earth. There are three main types of ultraviolet light which are produced from the Sun: UV-A radiation, UV-B radiation and UV-C radiation. UV-A has a long wavelength of about 315 to 400 nanometers from the sun and is considered a “black light” which is not strongly absorbed by the Earth’s ozone. UV-B has a medium wave length of about 315 to 280 nanometers which is mostly absorbed by the ozone layer. Human exposure to UV-B rays increases the risk of skin cancer, a weakened immune system, and cataracts. Additionally, UV-B exposure can also damage single cell organisms, terrestrial plant life, and aquatic ecosystems. UV-C has a short wave length of 280 to 100 nanometers and is completely absorbed by the ozone layer and the atmosphere. UV-C has a variety of positive uses, but the most unique is that it contributes to food, air, and water purification.
For the billion years that the Earth has been here, ozone molecules in the atmosphere have protected life on Earth from the effects of ultraviolet rays that the Sun produces. In the past 60 or so years, however, human activity has contributed deeply to the deterioration of the ozone layer. The ozone layer started to become more of an issue when the general public started to realize that deterioration of the ozone was linked to chemicals that mankind has manufactured for both residential and commercial use. These chemical substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (made up of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (consisting of carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine), and other ozone depleting substances were used for solvents, refrigerants, and insulating foams. When chloroflurocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) reach the stratosphere, the Suns’ ultraviolet radiation causes these compounds to break apart and release chlorine atoms which then begin to react with the ozone. Just one chlorine atom in the ozone can break more than 100,000 ozone molecules. Other chemicals that are harmful to the ozone include methyl bromide (which is used as pesticide), halons (which are used in fire extinguishers), and methyl chloroform (used as a solvent in industrial processes). When methyl bromide and halons rise to the atmosphere and break apart, they release bromine atoms. ...

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