5 Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion

The effects of ozone layer depletion have been a major topic of discussion irrespective of the continent, region, or country when it comes to global conferences and earth-saving initiatives. We are all victims of these effects.

The earth’s atmosphere is what makes life on earth possible this atmosphere protects us from harmful radiation and helps maintain the earth’s temperature by trapping some of the heat that enters the atmosphere.

About 15 to 35 kilometers above the earth’s surface a gas called Ozone surrounds the planet. The Ozone acts as a barrier to Earth’s ultraviolet(UV) radiation from the sun. 

However,  pollution has caused the Ozone layer to thin exposing life on earth to dangerous radiation from the sun’s rays. 

What is the Ozone Layer?

Earth‘s atmosphere  is made is of six layers which are

  • Exosphere 
  • Thermosphere
  • Mesosphere 
  • Stratosphere 
  • Troposphere 

According to Wiki, the ozone layer or ozone shield is a region of Earth’s stratosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. It contains a high concentration of ozone (O3) in other parts of the atmosphere, although still small to other gases in the stratosphere.

The ozone layer contains less than 10 parts per million of ozone, while the average ozone concentration in Earth’s atmosphere as a whole is about 0.3 parts per million.

The ozone layer is mainly found in the lower portion of the stratosphere, from approximately 15 to 35 kilometers (9 to 22 mi) above Earth, although its thickness varies seasonally and geographically.

The ozone layer is a natural layer of gas in the second layer of the atmosphere called the Stratosphere that protects humans and other living things from harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun.

The Ozone layer is made up of a highly reactive molecule called Ozone which contains three(3)oxygen atoms. Ozone is a trace gas in the atmosphere, the formula is O3. The highest concentration of ozone gas is found in the Stratosphere.

There are about three (3) molecules for every ten(10)million molecules of air.

On March 13, 1839, a chemist  Christian Friedrich Schönbein was doing experiments on the electrolysis of water. He noticed a distinctive odor, similar to the smell following a bolt of lightning. In 1839 he succeeded in isolating the new chemical substance and named it Ozone from the Greek word “open,” meaning “to smell.”

Then in 1867, it was discovered that ozone was a molecule that consist of three (3) oxygen atoms and discovered it occurs naturally in the higher atmosphere.

Ozone performs a very important function it blocks the harmful ultraviolet radiations of the sun from reaching the earth’s surface.

The ultraviolet(UV) radiations of the sun will be very harmful uses it can cause skin cancer blindness a weak immune system and many other diseases the ozone layer protects us from these harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays by absorbing about  98percent of them but due to human activities, this protective layer is in danger.

In the 1980s scientists discovered that the amount of Ozone gas in the earth’s atmosphere had decreased it was also reported that 70% of the Ozone layer has reduced above Antarctica this reduction of the Ozone layer is referred to as Ozone depletion. 

What Exactly is Ozone Layer Depletion?

According to Britannica, ozone layer depletion is the gradual thinning of Earth’s ozone layer in the upper atmosphere caused by the release of chemical compounds containing gaseous chlorine or bromine from industry and other human activities.

The thinning is most pronounced in the polar regions, especially over Antarctica. Ozone depletion is a major environmental problem because it increases the amount of ultraviolet (UV) radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, which increases the rate of skin cancereye cataracts, and genetic and immune system damage.

Ozone depletion is the reduction in the concentration of ozone in the ozone layer.  It is the gradual thinning of the earth’s ozone layer present in the upper atmosphere.

Ozone depletion also consists of a much larger springtime decrease in stratospheric ozone around Earth’s polar regions, which is referred to as the ozone hole.

The depletion of the ozone layer is mainly caused by chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrofluorocarbon(HFCs), and other ozone-depleting substances. These chemicals are mostly found in sprays, refrigerants used in Air conditioners, refrigerators, and plastic products. 

Chlorofluorocarbons are molecules that contain chlorine, fluorine, and carbon when a chlorofluorocarbons molecule is released into the earth’s atmosphere the ultraviolet rays of the sun cause it to break up and release a chlorine atom, and the ozone layer is highly reactive as it reacts with a chlorine atom. 

It produces a single oxygen molecule and chlorine monoxide chlorine.  Monoxide chlorine further reacts with another ozone molecule to produce another chlorine atom which further reacts with the Ozone molecule.

The chlorine atom is highly reactive, this results in thinning of the ozone layer in the atmosphere and reaching the earth’s surface. The effects of ozone layer depletion are detrimental to all forms of life on earth.

Effects Of Ozone Layer Depletion

The effects of ozone layer depletion can be felt strongly as it affects all forms of life both directly and indirectly.

We’ll consider the effects of ozone layer depletion under 4 subtopics:

  • Effects on human health
  • Effects on animals
  • Effects on the environment
  • Effects on marine life

1. Effects on Human Health

One of the effects of ozone layer depletion on humans is that more ultra-violet rays invade the earth’s surface, and direct exposure to ultraviolet rays of the sun due to ozone layer depletion causes health issues among humans, such as skin diseases, cancer, sunburns, cataracts, quickened aging and weak immune system. 

2. Effects on Plants

Ozone layer depletion strangely affects plants, as the ultra-violet rays penetrate the earth, it alters the physiological and developmental processes of plants, leading to plant growth disorder.

3. Effects on the Environment

ultraviolet rays negatively affect plants and crops. It may lead to minimal plant growth, smaller leaf size, flowering and photosynthesis in plants, and lower quality crops for humans. And the decline in plant productivity would in turn affect soil erosion and the carbon cycle. The forests also have to bear the harmful effects of the ultraviolet rays.

4. Effects on Marine Life

Planktons are greatly affected by exposure to harmful ultraviolet rays. These are higher in the aquatic food chain. If the plankton is destroyed, it would likely have wide-reaching effects on all marine life in the lower food chain. Scientists have proven a direct reduction in phytoplankton production has been due to ozone layer depletion.

One of the effects of ozone layer depletion on marine life is that it causes damage to the early developmental stages of fish, shrimp, crabs, amphibians, and other marine animals.

5. Effect on Biogeochemical Cycles

Increases in ultraviolet radiation cause ozone layer depletion and therefore alter both sources and sinks of greenhouse gasses in the biosphere e.g., carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, carbonyl sulfide, ozone, and possibly other gases.

You can read up on the 7 causes of ozone layer depletion

Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion – FAQs

Is the Ozone layer healing?

Global consumption of ozone-depleting substances has been reduced by some 98% since countries began taking action under the Montreal Protocol.

As a result, the atmospheric concentration of the most aggressive types of ozone-depleting substances is falling and the ozone layer is showing the first signs of recovery.

Nevertheless, the ozone layer is not expected to recover fully before the second half of this century. This is because once released, ozone-depleting substances stay in the atmosphere for many years and continue to cause damage.

Much remains to be done to ensure the continued recovery of the ozone layer and to reduce the impact of ozone-depleting substances on the Earth’s climate.

Fixing ozone depletion was by far the top choice of scientists, officials, and environmental policy experts.

“It was a moment where countries that usually compete with each other grasped the collective threat and decided to implement a solution,” former EPA chief Carol Browner said in an email.

Scientists in the 1970s had discovered that a certain class of chemicals, often used in aerosol sprays and refrigeration, was eating away the protective ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere that shields the planet from harmful ultraviolet radiation linked to skin cancer.

The ozone layer was thinning everywhere, creating a hole over Antarctica, which not only yielded increased skin cancer cases but also cataracts and widespread changes to ecosystems around the globe said University of North Carolina atmospheric scientist Jason West.

“It’s the first time we created a planet-killing problem and then we turned around and solved it,” Stanford’s Jackson said.

In 1987, the countries of the world signed the Montreal Protocol, a first of its kind treaty that banned the ozone-munching chemicals.

At this point every nation in the world has adopted the treaty, 99% of the ozone-depleting chemicals have been phased out, “saving 2 million people every year from skin cancer,” United Nations Environment Programme Director Inger Andersen said in an email.

The ozone hole over Antarctica worsened for a couple of decades, but over the last several years it has slowly started to heal in fits and spurts. The United Nations Environment Programme projects that the ozone ” will heal completely by the 2030s.”


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