The Implications of Ozone Depletion on Human Health
Hairspray. Refrigerators. Air conditioners. These everyday luxuries, while making human life more comfortable, are taxing our health seriously. Clorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are anthropogenic chemicals used in refrigerants and as propellants in aerosols. CFCs, also known as freons, are also the primary culprit behind the depletion of stratospheric ozone, which allows harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the Earth and its inhabitants.
When CFC molecules reach the stratosphere, the sun's radiation breaks it apart, freeing the chorine atom to destroy ozone molecules. The effect is a growing ozone hole which forms over Antarctica in October and usually lasts through mid November. During the annual ozone hole, the amount of UV radiation that reaches the Earth can double. Ozone depletion serves as a major health risk for human beings. The three primary health effects of ultraviolet radiation on human health are damage to the skin,eyes, and immune system.
UV radiation causes significant damage to human skin, in the form of sunburns, aging, skin cancer, and nonmelanoma tumors. Human skin damage is primarily a result of tanning. The
amount of UV exposure absorbed by a person is a direct result of the intensity of the light absorbed, the length of time of the exposure, and whether or not the skin was protected by clothing or sunscreen. Skin damage can be prevented by limiting when and how long one is exposed to sunlight, and by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen. Avoid exposure to sunlight during mid-day hours, when it is most intense. Tight weave clothing, and hats, protect against the sun's rays. Tanning beds, while popular, are also very damaging to human skin and are in no way a ?safe tan.?
Prolonged exposure to UV radiation causes ?sunburn,? a reddening, and sometimes blistering, of human skin. The sensitivity to radiation depends on each individual's pigmentation, with fairer skinned people being more susceptible to sunburn. As a result of frequent UV light exposure and sunburn, the skin experiences photoaging, which is characterized by wrinkles, altered pigmentation, and a loss of elasticity in the skin. This is simply an increase in the aging of skin cells brought on by UV exposure, and this photoaging of human skin will increase as ozone levels decrease.
One in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. For the year 1999, one million cases of skin cancer have been predicted. The two most common forms of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma. Carcinomas are cancers which originate in the cells that cover an organ. These cancers are also referred to as nonmelanoma cancers.
Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer. It appears as small, fleshy bumps, eighty percent of which are found on the head and neck. Basal cell carcinoma rarely spreads, but...