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The Ozone Layer Phenomenon

Rositsa Keranova is currently a BSc Economics student in her second year.

Carbon emissions are air pollutants that affect our health, the climate, our environment and its different ecosystems. The majority of the blame for releasing harmful substances falls on power plants, cars, planes, which use the combustion of fuels to produce electricity and power for transportation. They cause most of the carbon dioxide emissions. Having said that, some of the items that we use on a daily basis can be just as hazardous and who has ever taken notice of that?

Let’s take as an example, a hairspray is something that most people own. Occasionally you have a bad hair day or you would like your hairstyle to last the whole day. When this happens you don’t even think twice before spraying half of the can around your head. It seems absolutely harmless, but it isn’t. Quite a few of the chemicals in the hairspray contribute to the carbon emissions and are even one of the reasons for the thinning of the ozone layer.

The ozone layer, is a part of the Earth’s stratosphere that serves as a protection against the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. In the 1970s scientists observed the phenomenon of ozone depletion, especially the decrease in the ozone above the Antarctic. This resulted in what we call ‘the ozone hole”. This phenomenon (occurrence) was caused by the dangerous production chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), which was invented and heavily produced in order to take part in the manufacturing of refrigerators, aerosols, in foam manufacture and air conditioning. The mass production of these items led to ozone depletion causing skin cancer, blindness, weakening of the human immune system and reductions in farm yields.

The CFC has proven to be the worst enemy of ozone layer. It is mainly responsible for the thinning of the ozone layer and once released it builds up and can stay up to 50-100 years in the stratosphere. This then has a long term effect on the ozone levels and conclusively on our health. This confirms exactly how hazardous even the simplest hairspray can be.

To counteract the effect that carbon emissions have on our environment, different countries and governments came together to form the Montreal Protocol. This is an international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer, by phasing out the production of numerous substances that are responsible for ozone depletion. The outcome of this treaty was that there was a significant decrease in the production of CFC. However, industries didn’t stop using carbon substances in general, they just replaced the CFC with another compound that is not that dangerous for the ozone layer.

Having said that, even though companies changed their policies and the substances they use for production, can we be sure that the improvement in our environment will be constant? No, we can’t because, even though a solution for the ozone depletion, above the Antarctic, has been found, the goods that we still use have carbons in them, thus the carbon emissions will continue to decrease the overall level of the ozone.  The only way can combat this issue is by being aware of the contents of what we consume and making the necessary changes in our consumption habits. Only this will make sure of the safety of the health of the future generations!

 

Image source: NASA

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