Tech & Science Humans Are Destroying the Ozone Layer Again

07:17  13 october  2017
07:17  13 october  2017 Source:   Newsweek

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The ozone layer over Antarctica follows a natural thinning cycle each year, which man-made pollutants exacerbate. Ozone depletion is usually worse the further from the equator and recently an Ozone hole (as defined by a distinct area of very low ozone levels)

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The Montreal Protocol has been the shining success story of international climate agreements: Scientists realized human chemicals were eating a giant hole in the ozone layer that blocks the sun's damaging ultraviolet radiation, then governments around the globe came together to fix the problem. The result was a pact enacted at the beginning of 1989 to gradually stop using the chemicals responsible for the gaping hole. Three decades after the initial agreement was hammered out, it's still in effect with amendments.

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Scientists think ozone is being destroyed , and they think people are responsible. For many years humans have been polluting the atmosphere with man-made chemicals. It turns out that some of these chemicals are very good at destroying ozone .

The ozone layer is important for a number of reasons, but primarily because it helps to protect life on earth from damaging ultraviolet radiation. Ozone itself is a particular form of oxygen, where three atoms of the element have bonded together. It is poisonous for humans to breathe directly

But according to a new paper published in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, a hole in the Montreal Protocol itself may be leaving the ozone layer open to previously unrecognized damage—which could mean bad news for all life on Earth.

10_12_ozone_air_pollution © Provided by IBT Media (UK) 10_12_ozone_air_pollution

Ozone is a form of oxygen that includes three atoms stuck together—the oxygen we breathe to survive is built of only two atoms. It's created naturally in the top layers of Earth's atmosphere as sunlight breaks down two-atom oxygen and sticks the singletons onto other molecules of oxygen. (It can also be created near Earth's surface from reactions of human-made chemicals, but it's dangerous to breathe.) All told, there's more than 3 billion tons of the stuff floating more than six miles above our heads.

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CFC's react with ozone to form nascent oxygen. They then again react to form a chain reaction. How are humans destroying the ozone layer ?

The complex chemical reactions allow the chlorine and bromine to interact again and again with ozone molecules, until they eventually leave the ozone layer bonded to some other compound. What will happen to humans if the ozone layer is destroyed ?

That's a good thing: High above Earth, ozone acts basically as a sunshield for the entire planet, soaking up most ultraviolet light. What does make it through the ozone layer can give you a bad sunburn, but without ozone, living things wouldn't survive on Earth.

10_12_ozone_hole © Provided by IBT Media (UK) 10_12_ozone_hole

But a range of chemicals humans produce break ozone down, particularly over the north and south poles, creating the so-called "hole in the ozone layer." The Montreal Protocol governs dozens of these chemicalscompounds of chlorine, fluorine or both. That includes chemicals that had once been common in a range of consumer products, like the freon that powered a half century of refrigerators.

But the Montreal Protocol focused on gases that linger in the atmosphere—and that may have been a mistake, according to the new study. In it, scientists looked at shorter-lived chemicals, including one called dichloromethane, which is used in products including adhesives, paints and pharmaceuticals, and one called 1,2-dichloroethane, which is used to make polyvinyl chloride (PVC, as in the pipes). The new study argues that these chemicals are the result of industrial processes in in Eastern Asia.

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If the ozone layer is depleted, it means humans will be overly exposed to strong UV light. However, the protocol never covered nitrous oxide, which is a known harmful chemical that can destroy the ozone layer .

How are humans destroying the ozone layer ? The complex chemical reactions allow the chlorine and bromine to interact again and again with ozone molecules, until they eventually leave the ozone layer bonded to some other compound.

In the case of both these chemicals, the scientists found higher levels than they had expected, and higher up in the atmosphere, closer to the ozone layer. That could slow down the continuing recovery of the hole in the ozone, according to Lucy Carpenter, an atmospheric chemist at the University of York in the U.K. who was not involved in the paper.

Precisely how much of an impact these previously unrecognized chemicals could have on the ozone layer is still unclear, Ryan Hossaini, an atmospheric scientist at Lancaster University also not involved in the study, told Newsweek in an email. "While their impact on the ozone layer is expected to be relatively small at present, it would be prudent to continue to monitor these compounds."

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