Since the causes of ozone layer depletion were identified, solutions were put into place to reduce or eliminate their usage. The U.S. Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocols address the problem internationally. The goal of these treaties is to stop the damage to the ozone layer by phasing out known contributors.
Although there are numerous causes of ozone layer depletion, chloroflurocarbons have been identified as being the most damaging. These gases are used in many different industries in various ways. The most common types of ozone depleting substances are refrigerant gases found in everyday HVAC-R systems. Chloroflurocarbons are also used in firefighting equipment, aerosols, the production of installed foam and anesthetics.
After much scientific study, complete many years ago, researchers concluded that CFCs were a major source of destruction to the lower atmosphere. Once they reach the stratosphere, the sun's ultraviolet rays break down the compound, thus releasing chlorine. This resulting chlorine is what damages the ozone in a repetitive process. Unfortunately, the length of time chemicals cause destruction of the ozone depends upon the refrigerant being broken down, i.e. chlorine last for 2 years and other chemicals for much longer.
The main causes of ozone layer depletion are the gases fluorine, chlorine and bromine, which are found in manmade halocarbons. Ozone destruction and the depletion of important chemical compounds from the atmosphere were tied closely to chlorine and bromine where are both derivatives of refrigerant gases. Chlorine atoms result from chloroflurocarbons molecule, while bromine atoms result from halons. While chloroflurocarbons and halons are safe to use and cause no harm to the environment, they cause substantial damage to the stratosphere.
Fundamentally, the causes of ozone destruction comes from the breakdown of refrigerant gas into many other harmful free radicals. Currently, hydroxyl and nitric oxide occur in the stratosphere naturally. As with much environmental damage, one can trace it back to the man made substances. Chlorine and bromine are great examples of human activity that continues to result in ozone destruction.
The ozone layer protects the Earth from the full power of the sun's ultraviolet rays. When it is depleted, the Earth simply receives more exposure to harmful radiation. Skin cancer will increase, the immune system in humans and animals will be weakened, plants will be damaged and plankton in oceans will be reduced. The entire balance of the earth's life system will be impacted.
Once various compounds were identified as causes of ozone layer depletion, protocols were put into place to decrease their usage. They include the U.S. Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocols. Their sole purpose is to reduce or phase-out substances that damage the ozone layer. Even with these efforts, it would take another century before these damaging substances totally disappear from the stratosphere. Once they do, the ozone layer can recuperate and return to its normal state in about 100 years.
Way back to 1974 and the subsequent drafting of The Montreal Protocol, governments and scientific researchers documented the ozone depletion due to refrigerant gases. If the causes of ozone layer depletion are not addressed, the end result would be global warming. As the temperature of the earth rises, weather events, like more droughts and stronger hurricanes, would occur and ice caps and glaciers would melt. As the ozone layer continues to wear down, the earth would be in direct contact with the sun's heat and its damaging ultraviolet rays.
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