Ozone O3; One of The Earths Most Important Resources

There is the ozone layer that protects the earth surface from the effects of ultraviolet radiation. And that is what is known as the good ozone. The good ozone is there to protect us and the earth surface from excessive ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

Ozone depletion occurs when chlorofluorocarbons – CFCs and halons—gases formerly found in aerosol spray cans and refrigerants—are released into the atmosphere. CFCs and halons cause chemical reactions that break down Ozone molecules, reducing ozone’s ultraviolet radiation-absorbing capacity.

At the polar regions, CFCs attach to ice particles in the clouds and when the sun comes out again in the polar spring, the ice particles melt, releasing the ozone-depleting molecules from the ice particle surfaces.

Ozone at ground level – in the air we breathe – is not to be confused with the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere, which shields the Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Up there, ozone is good ozone – while at ground level it is bad ozone.

Bad Ozone is a colorless gas with a pungent smell and it is an air pollutant of much concern in Europe, because it can affect human health and damage the environment and is formed when certain gases, for example from car engines and power stations, react under the action of sunlight. And, since its formation requires sunlight, the highest levels of ozone pollution occur during periods of hot and sunny weather. Ground level or bad ozone is a human health irritant and component of SMOG.

Human activities have led to much higher ground-level concentrations today than in the pre-industrial era. SMOG – named for the mixture of smoke and fog in the air – is a kind of photo-chemical product and is the chemical reaction of sunlight, nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds in the atmosphere, which leaves airborne particles and ground-level O3 – bad O3

And with the depletion the good ozone layer we are faced with one of the issues that concern all the world today; the widening of the Ozone Hole. This refers to the depletion of the protective ozone layer in the upper atmosphere – stratosphere – over Earth’s polar regions. People, plants, and animals living under the ozone hole are harmed by the solar radiation accessing the Earth’s Surface where it causes health problems, from eye damage to skin cancer.

Ozone cycle

Ozone cycle

Causes that impact stratospheric ozone layer – good ozone.

  • Increased warming of the lower atmosphere (Global Warming) and a cooling of the upper atmosphere lead to a warming-cooling creates conditions that lead to ozone loss.
  • Greenhouse effect – heat from Earth’s surface that normally should pass through the troposphere and stratosphere, and eventually escape to space, is now being trapped due to carbon emissions.
  • Carbon dioxide and other heat-trapping gases rise into the atmosphere and spread around the globe, like a blanket wrapping Earth like a blanket.
  • And, as the blanket becomes uncomfortably thicker it traps more heat in the lower atmosphere which in turn prevents heat from moving from the lower atmosphere to the stratosphere, cooling down the stratosphere – a cooler stratosphere results in further depletion.
  • Some chemicals used for cleaning emit some of these harmful gases that increase the bad ozone and so cause more negative effects.

Measures to be taken

  • Reduce global warming emissions and ensure communities have the resources they need to withstand the effects of climate change.
  • Regulations are placed to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals.
  • Warning labels must be placed on all products containing CFCs or similar substances.
  • Non-essential uses of ozone-depleting products are prohibited.
  • Eco-friendly cleaning products are being produced to aid in decreasing harmful chemicals released in the air and water.

So, we are depleting the good O3, increasing the bad O3 along with an increase in global warming. An unending cycle that only we can break, each and every one of us.

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