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Intro: This was originally written in 2001 for RITRO.com, a volunteer Web community based on Real Insight Through Raw Opinion. I’m pulling it from my archives today in honor of the “Environmental Awareness” Fairy Oracle I drew this morning in today’s Daily Dose.

“Environmental Health: Our Ozone”
Written by:
Wendi Friend
2001

In a daydream, I picture myself laying on my back in a green meadow, gazing off into the infinite blue that stretches across the sky. Looking at little white puffs floating by, I imagine all those things imaginable when looking at the clouds. I look beyond the clouds thinking about flight, freedom, fresh air. Beyond that, I think about the heavens – the stars, the gravity-absent blackness that surrounds us far past where our sun shines. I think about the protective barrier around our planet, the delicate balance of the ecosystem. Fearful, I think about the destruction being done to that protective barrier. Uncertain, I question the severity of the claims of a hole in the ozone layer, wondering what the effects of such a hole might be. I reflect on my own behaviors to see if I’m contributing to the damage.

According to an article called Under The Ozone Shield, found at Ozone and UV Radiation Research, “Ozone is a molecule in the Earth’s atmosphere. As much as 90 % of ozone lies at heights of 10-50 km above the Earth’s surface. An ozone molecule consists of three oxygen atoms. Despite the fact that ozone forms only a small fraction of all the constituents of the atmosphere, it is still an important factor for the continuity of life on planet Earth.”

By visiting Beyond Discovery and viewing the article called, All About Ozone, one can read, “Ozone is a relatively simple molecule, consisting of three oxygen atoms bound together. Yet it has dramatically different effects depending upon its location. Near Earth’s surface, where ozone comes into direct contact with life forms, it primarily displays a destructive side. Because it reacts strongly with other molecules, large concentrations of ozone near the ground prove toxic to living things. At higher altitudes, where 90 percent of our planet’s ozone resides, it does a remarkable job of absorbing ultraviolet radiation. In the absence of this gaseous shield in the stratosphere, the harmful radiation has a perfect portal through which to strike Earth.”

Without the protection of our ozone layer, 95-99% of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation would strike the earth. This biologically disturbing, high-energy radiation is said to cause skin cancer, impairment of the eyes, damage to the immune system, and upset the fragile balance of an entire ecosystem.

Researchers now know that chlorine creates the hole in the ozone layer by destroying ozone molecules. The source of the chlorine: human made chemicals called chloroflurocarbons (CFC’s) that have been used in spray cans, foam packaging and refrigeration materials.

Refrigeration materials are partially responsible for global warming? Figure that out!

According to this Ozone Index at Environmental Database for use in Schools, “chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) were invented in the 1920s. They are a compound of carbon containing chlorine and fluorine. CFCs are man made chemicals, so we call them synthetic chemicals. Since their introduction CFCs have been used as refrigerants in refrigerators and air conditioning units, propellants in aerosol cans, foaming agents in the production of packaging, cleaners used in the electronics industry, and fire extinguisher chemicals.

CFCs are well suited to all these applications as they are non-flammable, non-toxic, have high chemical stability and the chemicals properties are well suited to the applications given above. CFCs are also relatively cheap chemicals compared to some alternatives which is always a good reason why a particular chemical is popular in industry.”

Developed during a search for a new, nontoxic substance that could serve as a refrigerant, these substances or chemicals all fit the bill. However, CFC’s are carried by wind currents 10-30 miles up to the stratospheric ozone layer. Ultraviolet rays then break down the CFC’s, releasing the chlorine atoms to dissolve the ozone, remaining active for more than a hundred years.

In September 1987, 24 nations, including Canada, pledged to reduce the use of CFCs by 50 percent by 1999, and to freeze the use of halons by 1992 at their 1986 levels. This agreement, the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, was the first of its kind and set a global precedent. Since then, the Montreal Protocol has been ratified by over 70 countries. The Protocol now calls for the total elimination of ODCs by the year 2005, according to an article titled, It’s Your Health.

Knowing that changes are being made on the large scale, we still need to ask ourselves what we as individuals can do to make a difference. Without the ozone layer, we will not survive. Each of us must do our part to preserve the planet we inhabit. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides useful tips on what you can do to make a difference in the struggle to save the ozone layer.

Fact: If all ozone-depleting chemicals were eliminated, the ozone layer would, in time, heal itself.

In a daydream, I picture myself laying on my back in a green meadow, gazing off into the infinite blue that stretches across the sky. Fearful, I think about the destruction being done to that protective barrier. I begin to reflect on my own behaviors to see if I’m contributing to the damage.

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