Ozone Layer Frequently Asked Questions

You probably have heard about the ozone layer and how we’ve been doing stuff to destroy it. The most common definition of it is that it protects from the harmful heat of the sun, but there is more to it than what you think you know. Here are the most frequently asked questions about our ozone layer:

1 – Why is the ozone layer so important?

The ozone layer plays a crucial role in making the Earth habitable since it filters the ultraviolet rays of the sun, which by the way is deadly. The sun produces ultraviolet radiation that is divided into three bands, namely UVA, UVB, and UVC. UVA is the one that the ozone layer allows to pass through it, while UVB and UVC are absorbed by it. By doing stuff to diminish or reduce the absorption capability of the ozone layer, you are contributing to its demise, which in turn allows more UV radiation from the sun to reach the surface the Earth.

2 – What happens if we are exposed to UV rays?

Overexposure to UV rays is catastrophic. For an average person to be overexposed means developing skin cancer, cataract, and a severely weakened immune system to say that least. Increased UV absorption by the Earth’s surface also substantially reduces crop yield and disrupts marine life to a point that the food chain is affected.

3 – How does ozone depletion happen?

The ozone molecules found in the stratosphere are produced constantly, but they also are destroyed by UV radiation coming from the sun. The Earth balances and stabilizes this process so that there will be no harmful effects to the surface. However, there are certain chemicals and substances that we regularly use which react to the UV radiation in the stratosphere, resulting to them breaking apart and releasing bromine and chlorine atoms. These atoms are responsible for destroying the ozone molecules.

4 – What are those ozone-depleting substances?

The biggest culprits that contribute to stratospheric ozone depletion are chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs, hydrochlorofluorocarbons or HCFCs, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride, methy chloroform, and halons. These substances behave well when they are at the troposphere, but will degrade the moment they are exposed to intense UV light in the stratosphere. As these substances break down, they release those bromine or chlorine atoms we mentioned earlier, causing the depletion of the ozone.

5 – Is there a link between ozone depletion and climate change?

You must be aware that the same ozone-depleting substances are the biggest contributors to climate change since they are highly potent greenhouse gases. In fact, most of them are a thousand times worse than carbon dioxide. Scientists are now looking at developing alternatives so that industries no longer need to use ozone-depleting substances, thereby reducing the likelihood of climate change and ozone depletion.

6 – Are natural sources not responsible for ozone depletion?

Technically, the oceans and volcanoes produce a lot of chlorine that they release to the atmosphere. But unlike man-made chlorine, the naturally-occurring ones get easily dissolved in water and goes with the rain. CFCs on the other hand are so potent that they do not break down in the lower part of the atmosphere. They also do not dissolve when mixed with water.

7 – Are there steps taken to protect the ozone layer?

Through the mandate of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is given the responsibility for the development as well as implementation of programs focused in the protection of the ozone layer. There are now a bunch of regulations used to protect as well as encourage the efforts in protecting the ozone layer.

It is true that the ozone layer and the Earth’s atmosphere in general is constantly being threatened by environmental degradation and pollution, but it is not too late for us to save the world we live in.