Air Pollution: Effects and Solutions

Why you should care and what you can do about it

Ozone Decay

            The Ozone layer is a layer of atmosphere around the earth that protects us from ultraviolet radiation the sun gives off. This layer has high concentrations of ozone compared to the surface atmosphere which gives it its name. The ozone of O3 as it is called using scientific notation (like O2 mean oxygen) is floating around 30 kilometers above the earths surface but the season dictates its thickness.

 

           The biggest human killer of ozone is CFC’s (Chlorofluorocarbons). These chemicals were used for aerosols, such as spray deodarant or Lysol type delivery systems, as a propellant because the gases were easily compressible. It was thought that CFC’s weren’t harmful to the upper atmosphere. A study was conducted in 1972 that proved CFC’s broke down under intense sunlight and released free chlorine. Chlorine acts as a catalyst, and can break many O3 molecules down to O2. Nitrogen Oxides act in the same way as chlorine but aren’t as plentiful because of the amount CFC’s were used. Now a days CFC’s have strict regulations in industrialized countries and other propellants that are less harmful to the atmosphere have been developed.

The Ozone Hole

Over the course of a year there are large gaps that form over the poles. This is called the Ozone hole. The Antarctic has the most famous ozone hole. A vortex of air is formed when strong winds flow around Antarctica. This usually occurs during the months of September to December which, since it’s in the southern hemisphere, is spring time. This trapped air contains CFC’s that go to work eating at O3 and destroy over half of it in the lower portions of the ozone layer. Each year ozone hole removes just less than 0.5% of the overall O3 in earth’s atmosphere

Consequnces of Ozone Depletion

            Without the ozone layer life on the planet earth would cease to function. The usual amounts of Ultra violet radiation that are absorbed by the ozone would instead seep through to the earth’s surface and kill surface water creatures such as plankton, which are vital to the ecosystem. Poor plant growth would be another factor of increased UV radiation, which would mean our crops would die or yield fruitful harvests. Skin cancer is caused by these rays would become even more common among people who spend time outside.

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