Ozone is a bluish-colored atmospheric gas which is formed when 3 oxygen atoms combine together through a chemical reaction. About 90% of this gas is found in the stratosphere. The gas protects living beings on the Earth from harmful effects of the UV rays. A major hole in the ozone layer above the Antarctica skyline now threatens the continent badly. There are plenty of causes of ozone depletion, CFC emission being one. Let's take a look at some of the ways in which we can prevent the current situation from getting worse.
The Montreal Protocol
» The Montreal Protocol (effective from 1989) was based on phasing out of CFCs and other hydrocarbons that harm the ozone layer. The focus of the treaty is gradually reducing the production of these substances.
» Till now more than 190 nations have signed this protocol and have started minimizing the production of ODS substances. Some major first generation ozone depleting substances (ODS), like the halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), methyl chloroform, methyl bromide have been phased to a great extent.
» The key agreements of the protocol are banning the release of the ODS during refrigerator use, maintenance, and disposal. It also made it mandatory for the manufactures to label the substances that contain the harmful ODS.
» The United States and certain European countries have agreed to ban the total production of the CFCs. This is also the best step forward because these counties produce more than quarters of CFCs in the world.
» Demanding that other counties should also totally ban the CFC production rather than limiting it seems to be an obvious next step. But there is major issue with it, CFC sources are very widespread. Ranging from the automobile industrial avenues like printing, dry cleaning, baking, etc., all use CFC to some extent.
» A complete ban on the CFC usage will bring the working of these industries to a halt, and hence a significant number of products would be lost. Apart from these effects, there would mass unemployment. Thus gradual phase out of the CFC or finding safer alternatives for CFC is the only solution that remains.
Your Role in Preventing Ozone Depletion
You have a role to play to avoid any catastrophic outcomes. Each one of us is expected to follow the following guidelines.
- Electronic appliances emit CFC even when they are not in use. So always unplug the electronic instruments when they are not in use.
- Prefer to walk and as far as possible, avoid using vehicles. Simple measures like using public transportation instead of your own private vehicle or carpooling will help in the long run.
- Prefer buying energy-efficient appliances like fluorescent bulbs.
- Plant trees, as they absorb UV rays greatly and thus protect the environment.
- Replace your old refrigerators and air conditioners as they are the major contributors of CFC in the atmosphere.
- Avoid or restrict the use of insecticides and pesticides.
Some Basic Information
» The ozone layer is a part of the stratosphere, and is composed of the ozone (O3) molecules. These molecules absorb the harmful UV rays of the sun and prevent them from reaching the Earth's surface.
» These rays cause much harm to living beings and environment. Exposure to these rays can cause skin problems as high as skin cancer. Environmental studies suggest that these rays can increase the probability of the spread of infectious diseases.
» They also affect the eyes and can lead to vision problems. Plants and animals are also the victims of UV rays exposure and it affects the food chain in a dangerous way. In short, the depletion of the ozone layer results in an imbalanced ecosystem.
» CFC is an organic compound primarily used as a coolant in refrigerators and air conditioners. The CFC emission reaches the stratosphere and destroys the ozone molecules there. Each year about 1 million ton of CFC is emitted in the air.
» Apart from the CFCs, emission of hydrocarbons and chemicals like methyl bromide, halogens and methyl chloroform destroys the ozone layer. Most of these chemicals have applications in pesticides and industrial solvents.
Since it was brought in to effect, the Montreal Protocol has resulted in a rather positive change. Scientists believe that if all countries continue to follow this treaty, the layer will attain its 1979 thickness by the year 2049.