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Ozone Depletion Essay

1381 words - 6 pages

Atmospheric ozone layer depletion is a serious problem currently facing the world. The ozone layer protects humans, animals, and plants from harmful ultraviolet rays. Money and time are being spent on ozone repair, but the problem still exists.

The ozone layer is a region of the stratosphere containing ozone, or O3 gas. The ozone layer is essential to both plant and animal life on earth because it protects the surface from dangerous ultraviolet light.

However, industrial and domestic chemicals that are currently in use have been found to destroy ozone, and the problem has escalated to an ozone layer "hole" above Antarctica. Ozone levels there are 40 percent below normal, and there may ...view middle of the document...

When CFC’s reach the stratosphere, they break down when struck by the intense light rays. The molecule splits and a majority of the chlorine then forms hydrogen chloride or chlorine nitrate, which then decay into atomic chlorine or chlorine monoxide.3

These are the substances responsible for the physical destruction of ozone. As they come in contact with an ozone molecule, they cause the third oxygen atom to detach and form an O2 molecule with another stray oxygen atom. Since they don’t react with the oxygen, the chlorine compounds remain intact and can destroy up to 150,000 ozone molecules each.3

There are a number of different CFC’s. The compounds most responsible for ozone layer destruction are CFC-11 (trichlorofluoromethane), CFCl3; CFC-12 (dichlorodifluoromethane), CF2Cl2; and CFC-113 (1,1,2 trichlorotrifluoroethane), CF2ClCFCl2. All of these compounds are excellent refrigerants, and CFC-12 is marketed by DuPont as Freon™.3

The word "CFC" has become a generic term referring to any substance that is deleterious to the ozone layer. However, many destructive compounds are not CFC’s by definition. All ozone-destroying compounds contain at least one of two common elements: chlorine, or the more catalytic bromine. Compared atom-to-atom, bromine can destroy 10-100 times the number of ozone molecules as chlorine. Fortunately, its atmospheric concentration is much smaller.3

One of the other O3-destructive groups is called the hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFC’s. HCFC’s are organic compounds in which not all of the hydrogen atoms have been replaced by chlorine or fluorine. One such compound is R-22 (HCFC-22), CHClF2.3

Some other non-CFC compounds that destroy the ozone layer include carbon tetrachloride (tetrachloromethane), CCl4; methyl chloroform (1,1,1 trichloroethane), CH3CCl3; and methyl chloride (chloromethane), CH3Cl.3

The result of ozone layer depletion is a increase in ultraviolet rays at the surface. Humans, animals, marine life, and plants are all susceptible to UV radiation damage.

Current studies indicate that ultraviolet rays could be disastrous to the marine eco-system. High UV concentration causes phytoplankton, microscopic organisms at the base of the food chain, to decrease their reproductive activity. Although there is no serious widespread effect now, the problem may escalate in future years.3

Numerous studies have proven that ultraviolet radiation, in both the UV-A and UV-B forms, causes skin cancer. Of the three types of skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma, squamous cell carcinoma, and melanoma, 90 percent of all cases can be attributed to overexposure to UV rays. Other effects of increased ultraviolet exposure, including sterility and cataracts, are currently under investigation.3

Ultraviolet radiation has effects on plants as well, though different species react in different manners. In a recent study of 200 plants, one variety of soybean plant showed a 25...

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