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Ozone depletion describes two distinct, but related observations: a slow, steady decline of about 4% per
decade in the total volume of ozone in Earth's stratosphere (the ozone layer) since the late 1970s, and a
much larger, but seasonal, decrease in stratospheric ozone over Earth's polar regions during the same
period. The latter phenomenon is commonly referred to as the ozone hole. In addition to this wellknown stratospheric ozone depletion, there are also tropospheric ozone depletion events, which occur
near the surface in polar regions during spring.
The detailed mechanism by which the polar ozone holes form is different from that for the mid-latitude
thinning, but the most important process in both trends is catalytic destruction of ozone by atomic
chlorine and bromine. The main source of these halogen atoms in the stratosphere is photodissociation
of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) compounds, commonly called freons, and of bromofluorocarbon
compounds known as halons. These compounds are transported into the stratosphere after being emitted
at the surface. Both ozone depletion mechanisms strengthened as emissions of CFCs and halons
CFCs and other contributory substances are commonly referred to as ozone-depleting substances
(ODS). Since the ozone layer prevents most harmful UVB wavelengths (280315 nm) of ultraviolet
light (UV light) from passing through the Earth's atmosphere, observed and projected decreases in ozone
have generated worldwide concern leading to adoption of the Montreal Protocol that bans the production
of CFCs and halons as well as related ozone depleting chemicals such as carbon tetrachloride and
trichloroethane. It is suspected that a variety of biological consequences such as increases in skin cancer,
cataracts, damage to plants, and reduction of plankton populations in the ocean's photic zone may result
from the increased UV exposure due to ozone depletion.
The ozone cycle
Three forms (or allotropes) of oxygen are involved in the ozone-oxygen cycle: oxygen atoms (O or
atomic oxygen), oxygen gas (O2 or diatomic oxygen), and ozone gas (O3 or triatomic oxygen). Ozone is
formed in the stratosphere when oxygen molecules photodissociate after absorbing an ultraviolet photon
whose wavelength is shorter than 240 nm. This produces two oxygen atoms. The atomic oxygen then
combines with O2 to create O3. Ozone molecules absorb UV light between 310 and 200 nm, following
which ozone splits into a molecule of O2 and an oxygen atom. The oxygen atom then joins up with an
oxygen molecule to regenerate ozone. This is a continuing process which terminates when an oxygen
atom "recombines" with an ozone molecule to make two O2 molecules: O + O3 2 O2
Ozone hole in North America during 1984 (abnormally warm reducing ozone depletion) and 1997
(abnormally cold resulting in increased seasonal depletion). Source: NASA

The Antarctic ozone hole is an area of the Antarctic stratosphere in which the recent ozone levels have
dropped to as low as 33% of their pre-1975 values. The ozone hole occurs during the Antarctic spring,
from September to early December, as strong westerly winds start to circulate around the continent and
create an atmospheric container. Within this polar vortex, over 50% of the lower stratospheric ozone is
destroyed during the Antarctic spring.
The photochemical processes involved are complex but well understood. The key observation is that,
ordinarily, most of the chlorine in the stratosphere resides in stable "reservoir" compounds, primarily
hydrochloric acid (HCl) and chlorine nitrate (ClONO2). During the Antarctic winter and spring,
however, reactions on the surface of the polar stratospheric cloud particles convert these "reservoir"
compounds into reactive free radicals (Cl and ClO). The clouds can also remove NO2 from the
atmosphere by converting it to nitric acid, which prevents the newly formed ClO from being converted
back into ClONO2.
The role of sunlight in ozone depletion is the reason why the Antarctic ozone depletion is greatest during
spring. During winter, even though PSCs are at their most abundant, there is no light over the pole to
drive the chemical reactions. During the spring, however, the sun comes out, providing energy to drive
photochemical reactions, and melt the polar stratospheric clouds, releasing the trapped compounds.
Warming temperatures near the end of spring break up the vortex around mid-December. As warm,
ozone-rich air flows in from lower latitudes, the PSCs are destroyed, the ozone depletion process shuts
down, and the ozone hole closes. Most of the ozone that is destroyed is in the lower stratosphere, in
contrast to the much smaller ozone depletion through homogeneous gas phase reactions, which occurs
primarily in the upper stratosphere.
Effects on humans
UVB (the higher energy UV radiation absorbed by ozone) is generally accepted to be a contributory
factor to skin cancer. In addition, increased surface UV leads to increased tropospheric ozone, which is a
health risk to humans.
1. Basal and Squamous Cell Carcinomas The most common forms of skin cancer in humans, basal
and squamous cell carcinomas, have been strongly linked to UVB exposure. The mechanism by which
UVB induces these cancers is well understoodabsorption of UVB radiation causes the pyrimidine
bases in the DNA molecule to form dimers, resulting in transcription errors when the DNA replicates.
These cancers are relatively mild and rarely fatal, although the treatment of squamous cell carcinoma
sometimes requires extensive reconstructive surgery. By combining epidemiological data with results of
animal studies, scientists have estimated that a one percent decrease in stratospheric ozone would
increase the incidence of these cancers by 2%.
2. Malignant Melanoma Another form of skin cancer, malignant melanoma, is much less common
but far more dangerous, being lethal in about 1520% of the cases diagnosed. The relationship between
malignant melanoma and ultraviolet exposure is not yet well understood, but it appears that both UVB
and UVA are involved. Experiments on fish suggest that 90 to 95% of malignant melanomas may be due
to UVA and visible radiation whereas experiments on opossums suggest a larger role for UVB. Because
of this uncertainty, it is difficult to estimate the impact of ozone depletion on melanoma incidence. One
study showed that a 10% increase in UVB radiation was associated with a 19% increase in melanomas

for men and 16% for women.[27] A study of people in Punta Arenas, at the southern tip of Chile, showed
a 56% increase in melanoma and a 46% increase in nonmelanoma skin cancer over a period of seven
years, along with decreased ozone and increased UVB levels.
3. Cortical Cataracts Studies are suggestive of an association between ocular cortical cataracts and
UV-B exposure, using crude approximations of exposure and various cataract assessment techniques. A
detailed assessment of ocular exposure to UV-B was carried out in a study on Chesapeake Bay
Watermen, where increases in average annual ocular exposure were associated with increasing risk of
cortical opacity. In this highly exposed group of predominantly white males, the evidence linking
cortical opacities to sunlight exposure was the strongest to date. However, subsequent data from a
population-based study in Beaver Dam, WI suggested the risk may be confined to men. In the Beaver
Dam study, the exposures among women were lower than exposures among men, and no association
was seen. Moreover, there were no data linking sunlight exposure to risk of cataract in African
Americans, although other eye diseases have different prevalences among the different racial groups,
and cortical opacity appears to be higher in African Americans compared with whites.
4. Increased Tropospheric Ozone Increased surface UV leads to increased tropospheric ozone.
Ground-level ozone is generally recognized to be a health risk, as ozone is toxic due to its strong oxidant
properties. At this time, ozone at ground level is produced mainly by the action of UV radiation on
combustion gases from vehicle exhausts.
Effects on non-human animals
A November 2010 report by scientists at the Institute of Zoology in London found that whales off the
coast of California have shown a sharp rise in sun damage, and these scientists "fear that the thinning
ozone layer is to blame"
The study photographed and took skin biopsies from over 150 whales in the Gulf of California and
found "widespread evidence of epidermal damage commonly associated with acute and severe sunburn,"
having cells which form when the DNA is damaged by UV radiation. The findings suggest "rising UV
levels as a result of ozone depletion are to blame for the observed skin damage, in the same way that
human skin cancer rates have been on the increase in recent decades."
Effects on crops
An increase of UV radiation would be expected to affect crops. A number of economically important
species of plants, such as rice, depend on cyanobacteria residing on their roots for the retention of
nitrogen. Cyanobacteria are sensitive to UV light and they would be affected by its increase.

The upper layer of the atmosphere surrounded by ozone (15 to 30 Kms) is known as ozonosphere.
Ozone layer is a protective stratospheric layer, also known as ozone umbrella.
Ozone concentration differs by about 10 ppm in stratosphere compared to 0.05 ppm in troposphere. It
acts as a protective shield for the man, animals and plants by filtering out the lethal ultraviolet rays from
reaching the earths surface.
If the ozone layer is not there, the harmful ultraviolet rays will reach to the lower atmosphere and its
temperature will rise to that extent that the biological furnace of the biosphere will turn into a blast
Formation of Ozone
The atmospheric oxygen absorbs UV radiation in the lower mesosphere at < 240nm and Photo
dissociates into two oxygen atoms.
One of these oxygen atoms combines with 02 of upper stratosphere forming 03. Ozone is also capable of
absorbing short wavelength UV radiations releasing oxygen atom.
Reactions: 02 + hv {X < 240 nm) O + 02 + M 03 + hv (A, > 230-320 nm) O* + o,
Ozone Hole or Ozone Layer Depletion
The latest satellite measurement indicates an ozone loss at the rate of 8% just above the South Pole, at
the centre of the ozone hole, 5% of the protective gas is depleting each day.
In 1980, a hole in the ozone umbrella was found out by a scientist named Chubachi Shigerui of
Meteorological Research Institute of Japan. By the year 1985, this hole reached to the size of the
American continent.
Factors Affecting 03 Layer Depletion
The main cause of 03 layer depletion is the presence of chlorine containing gases (primarily CFCS and
related hydrocarbons).
Due to the presence of UV light, these gases dissociate and release chlorine atom, which then leads to
O3 destruction. The chlorine ion catalyzing O3 depletion can take place in the gaseous phase, but it is
dramatically enhanced in the presence of polar stratospheric clouds.

You probably don't realize that every time you step outside, ozone, a gaseous molecule of three oxygens,
makes it possible for you to do so without reaping the harmful effects of the sun's radiation. This helpful
ozone is found in the stratosphere, which is the atmospheric layer just above where life exists and
weather occurs.
When that same gaseous ozone is found in our lower layer (called the troposphere), it is considered an
air pollutant and is very harmful to human health. However, we need it in the stratosphere because even
at the low concentration of 12 parts per million, ozone is so effective at absorbing the sun's UV radiation
that this small amount is plenty enough to protect us on Earth.
Just how harmful is UV radiation? In humans, UV radiation causes skin cancer and cataracts. UV
radiation also affects the fertility of other animals, as well as the viability of their offspring. Plants are
affected by UV radiation because it affects their ability to grow and develop correctly. As you'll see later,
UV radiation also influences how chemicals break down and react, and this can lead to catastrophic
changes in environments and ecosystems.
You've likely heard about the ozone hole or thinning of the ozone layer, but you may not know what
causes these problems. These discoveries came about through many years of scientific research, so let's
take a trip back in time to gain a better understanding of how the ozone layer has been affected by
human activity.
It all began in the 1960s when scientists noticed that their measurements of ozone in the atmosphere
were lower than what their models predicted they should be. The scientists believed that either naturally
or artificially created chemicals were somehow depleting the ozone.
It turns out that these chemicals were something called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. These are
compounds used for refrigerants, fire extinguishers, and aerosol propellants. CFCs were invented in the
1920s and were originally thought to be environmentally friendly, but in fact, they break down ozone in
the presence of UV radiation.
What happens is this: a chlorine molecule from the CFC is released from the compound by the UV
radiation. It then reacts with an ozone molecule (O3), leaving a molecule of oxygen gas (O2) and a
molecule of chlorine monoxide (ClO). The chlorine on this molecule is free to react with a single
oxygen atom and then breaks away, leaving another O2 molecule and the free chlorine atom. This
chlorine atom is now floating around the stratosphere, ready to break apart another ozone molecule into
atmospheric oxygen, continuing the cycle until the chlorine atom breaks down. Unfortunately, the
chlorine may not break down for a thousand years or more!
Ok, so now that we know how CFCs break apart ozone, let's go to the early 1970s where CFCs are being
mass produced at an annual rate of one million metric tons and growing by 20% each year!

In 1974, two scientists named Sherwood Rowland and Mario Molina were able to demonstrate how
CFCs were splitting ozone molecules into atmospheric oxygen and chlorine monoxide molecules, and
this work earned them the 1995 Nobel Prize in chemistry. Their research helped put new policy into
motion, and by 1979, the U.S. and other countries had banned CFCs in aerosol sprays, but not for other
Fast forward to 1985 when a new and shocking discovery sparked action across the world. British
scientists, who had been measuring ozone concentrations at a research station in Antarctica since the
1950s, discovered that the ozone above this region had declined by as much as 60% in the previous ten
years. This extremely thin layer of ozone above the region became known as the ozone hole, and over
the next several years, it was confirmed that CFCs were the cause of so much thinning.
Let's jump one more time, now to the Montreal Protocol of 1987. When it was originally drafted, 24
different nations signed this treaty agreeing to reduce CFC production by at least 50%. Since then, five
more agreements have followed up this original one with more severe cuts to CFC production and other
ozone-depleting chemicals. At present, it includes almost 200 different signatory nations from all over
the world.

The basic physical and chemical processes that lead to the formation of an ozone layer in the Earth's
stratosphere were discovered by Sydney Chapman in 1930. These are discussed in the article Ozoneoxygen cycle briefly, short-wavelength UV radiation splits an oxygen (O2) molecule into two oxygen
(O) atoms, which then combine with other oxygen molecules to form ozone. Ozone is removed when an
oxygen atom and an ozone molecule "recombine" to form two oxygen molecules, i.e. O + O3 2O2. In
the 1950s, David Bates and Marcel Nicolet presented evidence that various free radicals, in particular
hydroxyl (OH) and nitric oxide (NO), could catalyze this recombination reaction, reducing the overall
amount of ozone. These free radicals were known to be present in the stratosphere, and so were regarded
as part of the natural balance it was estimated that in their absence, the ozone layer would be about
twice as thick as it currently is.
In 1970 Prof. Paul Crutzen pointed out that emissions of nitrous oxide (N2O), a stable, long-lived gas
produced by soil bacteria, from the Earth's surface could affect the amount of nitric oxide (NO) in the
stratosphere. Crutzen showed that nitrous oxide lives long enough to reach the stratosphere, where it is
converted into NO. Crutzen then noted that increasing use of fertilizers might have led to an increase in
nitrous oxide emissions over the natural background, which would in turn result in an increase in the
amount of NO in the stratosphere. Thus human activity could have an impact on the stratospheric ozone
layer. In the following year, Crutzen and (independently) Harold Johnston suggested that NO emissions
from supersonic aircraft, which fly in the lower stratosphere, could also deplete the ozone layer.

The ozone hole

The discovery of the Antarctic "ozone hole" by British Antarctic Survey scientists Farman, Gardiner and
Shanklin (announced in a paper in Nature in May 1985) came as a shock to the scientific community,
because the observed decline in polar ozone was far larger than anyone had anticipated. Satellite
measurements showing massive depletion of ozone around the south pole were becoming available at
the same time. However, these were initially rejected as unreasonable by data quality control algorithms
(they were filtered out as errors since the values were unexpectedly low); the ozone hole was detected
only in satellite data when the raw data was reprocessed following evidence of ozone depletion in in situ
observations. When the software was rerun without the flags, the ozone hole was seen as far back as
Susan Solomon, an atmospheric chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
(NOAA), proposed that chemical reactions on polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) in the cold Antarctic
stratosphere caused a massive, though localized and seasonal, increase in the amount of chlorine present
in active, ozone-destroying forms. The polar stratospheric clouds in Antarctica are only formed when
there are very low temperatures, as low as -80 degrees C, and early spring conditions. In such conditions
the ice crystals of the cloud provide a suitable surface for conversion of unreactive chlorine compounds
into reactive chlorine compounds which can deplete ozone easily.
There are five areas of linkage between ozone depletion and global warming:
Radioactive forcing from various greenhouse gases and other sources.

The same CO2 radiative forcing that produces global warming is expected to cool the
stratosphere.[63] This cooling, in turn, is expected to produce a relative increase in ozone (O3)
depletion in polar area and the frequency of ozone holes.

Conversely, ozone depletion represents a radiative forcing of the climate system. There are two
opposing effects: Reduced ozone causes the stratosphere to absorb less solar radiation, thus
cooling the stratosphere while warming the troposphere; the resulting colder stratosphere emits
less long-wave radiation downward, thus cooling the troposphere. Overall, the cooling
dominates; the IPCC concludes that "observed stratospheric O3 losses over the past two decades
have caused a negative forcing of the surface-troposphere system" of about 0.15 0.10 watts
per square meter (W/m).

One of the strongest predictions of the greenhouse effect is that the stratosphere will cool.
Although this cooling has been observed, it is not trivial to separate the effects of changes in the
concentration of greenhouse gases and ozone depletion since both will lead to cooling. However,
this can be done by numerical stratospheric modeling. Results from the National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration's Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory show that above 20 km
(12.4 miles), the greenhouse gases dominate the cooling.

As noted under 'Public Policy', ozone depleting chemicals are also often greenhouse gases. The
increases in concentrations of these chemicals have produced 0.34 0.03 W/m of radiative
forcing, corresponding to about 14% of the total radiative forcing from increases in the
concentrations of well-mixed greenhouse gases.

The long term modeling of the process, its measurement, study, design of theories and testing
take decades to document, gain wide acceptance, and ultimately become the dominant paradigm.
Several theories about the destruction of ozone were hypothesized in the 1980s, published in the
late 1990s, and are currently being proven. Dr Drew Schindell, and Dr Paul Newman, NASA
Goddard, proposed a theory in the late 1990s, using a SGI Origin 2000 supercomputer, that
modeled ozone destruction, accounted for 78% of the ozone destroyed. Further refinement of
that model accounted for 89% of the ozone destroyed, but pushed back the estimated recovery of
the ozone hole from 75 years to 150 years. (An important part of that model is the lack of
stratospheric flight due to depletion of fossil fuels.)

Misconceptions about ozone depletion
A few of the more common misunderstandings about ozone depletion are addressed briefly here; more
detailed discussions can be found in the ozone-depletion FAQ.
CFCs are "too heavy" to reach the stratosphere
It is commonly believed that CFC molecules are heavier than air (nitrogen or oxygen), so that the CFC
molecules cannot reach the stratosphere in significant amount. But atmospheric gases are not sorted by
weight; the forces of wind can fully mix the gases in the atmosphere. Despite the fact that CFCs are
heavier than air and with a long lifetime, they are evenly distributed throughout the turbosphere and
reach the upper atmosphere.
Man-made chlorine is insignificant compared to natural sources

Another misconception is that "it is generally accepted that natural sources of tropospheric chlorine are
four to five times larger than man-made one". While strictly true, tropospheric chlorine is irrelevant; it is
stratospheric chlorine that affects ozone depletion. Chlorine from ocean spray is soluble and thus is
washed by rainfall before it reaches the stratosphere. CFCs, in contrast, are insoluble and long-lived,
allowing them to reach the stratosphere. In the lower atmosphere, there is much more chlorine from
CFCs and related haloalkanes than there is in HCl from salt spray, and in the stratosphere halocarbons
are dominant . Only methyl chloride which is one of these halocarbons has a mainly natural source , and
it is responsible for about 20 percent of the chlorine in the stratosphere; the remaining 80% comes from
man made sources.
Very violent volcanic eruptions can inject HCl into the stratosphere, but researchers have shown that the
contribution is not significant compared to that from CFCs. A similar erroneous assertion is that soluble

halogen compounds from the volcanic plume of Mount Erebus on Ross Island, Antarctica are a major
contributor to the Antarctic ozone hole.
ODS requirements in the Marine industry
IMO has amended MARPOL Annex VI Regulation 12 regarding ozone depleting substances.
As from 1 July 2010 all vessels where MARPOL Annex VI is applicable should have a list of equipment
using ozone depleting substances. The list should include name of ODS, type and location of equipment,
quantity in kg and date. All changes since that date should be recorded in a ODS Record book on board
recording all intended or unintended releases to the atmosphere. Further more new ODS supply or
landing to shore facilities should be recorded as well. More info and how to draft a record book and an
example of ODS list can be found in ANCO Maritime Activities Ltd web site.
In 1994, the United Nations General Assembly voted to designate the 16th of September as "World
Ozone Day", to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol on that date in 1987.
The distribution of ozone in the stratosphere is a function of altitude, latitude and season. It is
determined by photochemical and transport processes. The ozone layer is located between 10 and 50 km
above the Earth's surface and contains 90% of all stratospheric ozone. Under normal conditions,
stratospheric ozone is formed by a photochemical reaction between oxygen molecules, oxygen atoms
and solar radiation.
The ozone layer is essential to life on earth, as it absorbs harmful ultraviolet-B radiation from the sun. In
recent years the thickness of this layer has been decreasing, leading in extreme cases to holes in the
layer. Measurements carried out in the Antarctic have shown that at certain times, more than 95% of the
ozone concentrations found at altitudes of between 15 and 20 km and more than 50% of total ozone are
destroyed, with reductions being most pronounced during winter and in early spring. Natural
phenomena, such as sun-spots and stratospheric winds, also decrease stratospheric ozone levels, but
typically not by more than 1-2%.
The main cause of ozone layer depletion is the increased stratospheric concentration of chlorine from
industrially produced CFCs , halons and selected solvents. Once in the stratosphere, every chlorine atom
can destroy up to 100 000 ozone molecules. The amount of damage that an agent can do to the ozone
layer is expressed relative to that of CFC-11 and is called the Ozone Depletion Potential (ODP), where
the ODP of CFC-11 is 1.
The lifetime of some of these ozone depleting substances is very long, and they may continue to deplete
the ozone layer long after their use has been phased out. In this publication the ODP values for 100-year
timespan are used. Nevertheless some shorter-lived substances may have a very high chlorine loading
potential and thus their effect in the short term is much larger than reflected by their ODP value.
Aircraft emissions of nitrogen oxides and water vapour add to this depletion effect by creating ice
crystals that serve as a base for ozone destroying reactions.

The main potential consequences of this ozone depletion are:

increase in UV-B radiation at ground level: a one percent loss of ozone leads to a two percent
increase in UV radiation. Continuous exposure to UV radiation affects humans, animals and
plants, and can lead to skin problems (ageing, cancer), depression of the immune system, and
corneal cataracts (an eye disease that often leads to blindness). Increased UV radiation may also
lead to a massive die-off of photoplancton (a CO 2 "sink") and therefore to increased global

disturbance of the thermal structure of the atmosphere, probably resulting in changes in

atmospheric circulation;

reduction of the ozone greenhouse effect: ozone is considered to be a greenhouse gas. A depleted
ozone layer may partially dampen the greenhouse effect. Therefore efforts to tackle ozone
depletion may result in increased global warming.

changes in the tropospheric ozone and in the oxidising capacity of the troposphere.

International targets for the reduction of ozone depleting substances have resulted in the almost
complete phasing out of CFCs, halons and carbon tetrachloride in the EU. Methyl chloroform and
methyl bromide will be phased out by 2005 and HCFC by 2040.
The policy fields Ozone Layer Depletion and Climate Change are different, but closely related and
indicators such as CFCs and NO x emissions appear in both chapters. However, only the potential effects
on the ozone layer will be taken into account under Ozone Layer Depletion whereas Climate Change
will focus on the effects on global warming.
Introduction to Ozone Depletion
Ozone is both beneficial and harmful to us. Near the ground, ozone forming as a result of chemical
reactions involving traffic pollution and sunlight may cause a number of respiratory problems,
particularly for young children. However, high up in the atmosphere in a region known as the
stratosphere, ozone filters out incoming radiation from the Sun in the cell-damaging ultraviolet (UV)
part of the spectrum. Without this ozone layer, life on earth would not have evolved in the way it has.
Concentrations of ozone in the stratosphere fluctuate naturally in response to variations in weather
conditions and amounts of energy being released from the Sun, and to major volcanic eruptions.
Nevertheless, during the 1970s it was realised that man-made emissions of CFCs and other chemicals
used in refrigeration, aerosols and cleansing agents may cause a significant destruction of ozone in the
stratosphere, thereby letting through more of the harmful ultraviolet radiation. Then in 1985 evidence of
a large "ozone hole" was discovered above the continent of Antarctica during the springtime. This has
reappeared annually, generally growing larger and deeper each year. More recently, fears have emerged
about significant ozone depletion over the Arctic, closer to the more populous regions of the Northern

In response to this and additional fears about more widespread global ozone depletion, the Montreal
Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was implemented in 1987. This legally binding
international treaty called for participating developed nations to reduce the use of CFCs and other ozone
depleting substances. In 1990 and again in 1992, subsequent Amendments to the Protocol brought
forward the phase out date for CFCs for developed countries to 1995.
Protecting the ozone layer is essential. Ultraviolet radiation from the Sun can cause a variety of health
problems in humans, including skin cancers, eye cataracts and a reduction in the body's immunity to
disease. Furthermore, ultraviolet radiation can be damaging to microscopic life in the surface oceans
which forms the basis of the worlds marine food chain, certain varieties of crops including rice and
soya, and polymers used in paints and clothing. A loss of ozone in the stratosphere may even affect the
global climate.
International agreements and other legislation have gone a long way to safeguarding this life-supporting
shield. Nevertheless, for there to be real and long-lasting success, everyone must become part of the
solution. Individual efforts taken together can be powerful forces for environmental change. There are a
number of things that we, as individuals, can do to both protect the ozone layer. These include proper
disposal of old refrigerators, the use of halon-free fire extinguishers and the recycling of foam and other
non-disposable packaging. Finally, we should all be aware that whilst emissions of ozone depleters are
now being controlled, the ozone layer is not likely to fully repair itself for several decades.
Consequently, we should take precautions when exposing ourselves to the Sun.

What Causes Ozone Depletion

The ozone in the ozone layer is being broken down by chlorine atoms from chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)
molecules and bromine atoms from halons. CFCs and halons are produced by humans used in many
applications such as refrigerants, anaesthetics, aerosols, fire-fighting equipment and the manufacture of
materials such as stryrofoam. They were thought to be completely safe, chemically inert, and
environmentally neutral. However it was soon found that they were not so ideal when they reached the
upper atmosphere.
When CFCs reach the upper atmosphere they are first degraded by the very high energy of UV (ultraviolet) radiation. Degradation of CFC leaves a free chlorine atom. The basic cause of ozone layer
depletion is that this chlorine atom then breaks up ozone molecules. Ozone then disappears. The chlorine
atoms are recreated in subsequent reactions. One chlorine atom can destroy 100,000 ozone molecules.
Chlorofluorocarbon molecules in the stratosphere release chlorine atoms which break up ozone
molecules to form ozygen. (diagram adapted from Time Australia Magazine 19 October 1987)
Degradation of halons leaves a free bromine atom that destroys ozone in the same way as chlorine.
CFCs and halons last a long time (100 years on average). After it was confirmed that an environmentally
disastrous side-effect was taking place in the upper atmosphere, plans and agreements were made to
phase out CFCs and halons. However, at the moment CFCs and halons are still being produced and are
being put into the stratosphere about 5 times as fast as they can be removed naturally.

"The ozone layer" refers to the ozone within stratosphere, where over 90% of the earth's ozone resides.
Ozone is an irritating, corrosive, colorless gas with a smell something like burning electrical wiring. In
fact, ozone is easily produced by any high-voltage electrical arc (spark plugs, Van de Graaff generators,
Tesla coils, arc welders).
Ozone is a tri-atomic form of oxygen, i.e., each molecule of ozone has three oxygen atoms and is
produced when oxygen molecules (O2) are broken up by energetic electrons or high energy radiation. In
other words, it is formed naturally in the upper levels of the Earths atmosphere by high-energy
ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. As, the radiation breaks down oxygen molecules, releasing free
atoms, some of which bond with other oxygen molecules to form ozone. About 90 per cent of all ozone
formed in this way lies between 15 and 55 kilometres above the Earths surface the part of the
atmosphere called the stratosphere. Hence, this is known as the ozone layer. Even in the ozone layer,
ozone is present in very small quantities; its maximum concentration, at a height of about 20-25
kilometres, is only ten parts per million.
Ozone is an unstable molecule. High-energy radiation from the Sun not only creates it, but also breaks it
down again, recreating molecular oxygen and free oxygen atoms. The concentration of ozone in the
atmosphere depends on a dynamic balance between how fast it is created and how fast it is destroyed.
Depletion of stratospheric ozone (O3), as commonly known as 'the hole in the ozone layer', is an issue of
international concern. Most ozone is found in the stratosphere (upper part of the atmosphere), more than
10 to 16 kms from the surface of the Earth. The natural distribution of ozone around the Earth is not
uniform, as seasonal winds and formation patterns contribute to lower concentrations at the equator and
higher concentrations at the poles. Ozone in the stratosphere protects life on Earth as it limits penetration
of ultraviolet radiation through the atmosphere, but it is considered a pollutant in the troposphere (close
to the ground). The amount of ozone in the atmosphere is measured in Dobson units (DU). One DU is
about twenty-seven million molecules per square centimeter. The average thickness of the atmospheric
ozone layer at any place varies from month to month, but is generally between 260 and 330 DU.
The Earth's atmosphere is divided into several layers. The lowest region, the troposphere, extends from
the Earth's surface up to about 10 kilometers (km) in altitude. Virtually all human activities occur in the
troposphere. Mt. Everest, the tallest mountain on the planet, is only about 9 km high. The next layer, the
stratosphere, continues from 10 km to about 50 km. Most commercial airline traffic occurs in the lower
part of the stratosphere. For nearly a billion years, ozone molecules in the atmosphere have protected life
on Earth from the effects of ultraviolet rays. It is a form of oxygen (O2). We all know that, oxygen we
need to live and breathe. Normal oxygen consists of two oxygen atoms. Ozone, however, consists of
three oxygen atoms and has the chemical formula O3. Ozone is formed when an electric spark is passed
through oxygen. Over millions of years the action of sunlight and specifically the action of ultra violet
light or UV on oxygen has created a layer of ozone high up in the atmosphere. This ozone layer resides
in the stratosphere and surrounds the entire Earth. The action of UV light on this layer both destroys and
creates ozone, a constant process going on silently. Thus, this process of absorbing portion of UV light,
protecting us from the harmful exposure. In fact, UV-B radiation (280- to 315- nanometer (nm)
wavelength) from the Sun is partially absorbed in this ozone layer. As a result, the amount of UV-B
reaching Earths surface is greatly reduced. UV-A (315- to 400-nm wavelength) and other solar radiation

are not strongly absorbed by the ozone layer. Human exposure to UV-B increases the risk of skin cancer,
cataracts, and a suppressed immune system. UV-B exposure can also damage terrestrial plant life, single
cell organisms, and aquatic ecosystems. In the past 60 years or so human activities have contributed to
the deterioration of the ozone layer to a great extent.

Sunshine and ozone

As discussed, ozone (a form of oxygen containing three atoms instead of the usual two) is formed and
destroyed by a complicated series of chemical reactions between atmospheric oxygen, sunlight and other
trace substances in the stratosphere. Absorbtion of solar UV radiation by the ozone layer has the effect
of removing much of the more harmful parts of the UV radiation spectrum as they pass through the
stratosphere (the upper atmosphere 10 to 50 km above ground). By the time UV radiation has passed
through the stratosphere, virtually all of the shortest wavelengths and most (70-90%) of the intermediate
wavelengths (UV-B) have been absorbed, leaving the least damaging UV-A.
The amount of ozone depends on its rate of formation and destruction, and varies naturally as per the
following factors:
* Regional factors - Most ozone is produced over the tropics (where levels of UV radiation are highest),
but then carried away by stratospheric winds to higher latitudes, so that the ozone layer is thickest
towards the poles and thinnest around the tropics.
* Seasonal factors - The thickness of the ozone layer remains relatively constant throughout the year in
the tropics, but varies considerably at higher latitudes (both north and south), with peak levels occurring
in the spring and minimum levels in the autumn.
* Other factors - ozone levels correlate with the 11 year solar sunspot cycle, and may also be
influenced by volcanic eruptions.
Research also revealed that the Arctic is similarly affected during winter/spring - as in Antarctica, the
greatest loss is near the Pole, but depletion is spreading to lower latitudes.

Mechanism of Ozone hole

The criticality of ozone layer can be understood from the fact that, only 10 or less of every million
molecules of air is ozone. The majority of these ozone molecules reside in a layer between 10 and 40
kilometers above the surface of the Earth known as stratosphere. Each spring in the stratosphere over
Antarctica (spring in the southern hemisphere is from September through November.), atmospheric
ozone is rapidly destroyed by chemical processes. As winter arrives, a vortex of winds develops around
the pole and isolates the polar stratosphere. When temperatures drop below -78C, thin clouds form of
ice, nitric acid, and sulfuric acid mixtures. Chemical reactions on the surfaces of ice crystals in the
clouds release active forms of CFCs. Ozone depletion begins, and the ozone hole appears.
Over the course of two to three months, approximately 50% of the total column amount of ozone in the
atmosphere disappears. At some levels, the losses approach 90%. This has come to be called the

Antarctic ozone hole. In spring, temperatures begin to rise, the ice evaporates, and the ozone layer starts
to recover.
Thus, ozone "hole" is a reduction in concentrations of ozone high above the earth in the stratosphere.
The ozone hole is defined geographically as the area wherein the total ozone amount is less than 220
Dobson Units. The ozone hole has steadily grown in size and length of existence over the past two and
half decades. Now, the size of ozone hole over Antarctica is estimated to be about 30 million sq. km.
It has been observed that, man-made chlorines, primarily chloroflourobcarbons (CFCs), contribute to the
thinning of the ozone layer and allow larger quantities of harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth.

Human activities are mostly responsible for ozone depletion

Human activity is by far the most prevalent and destructive source of ozone depletion, while threatening
volcanic eruptions are less common. Human activity, such as the release of various compounds
containing chlorine or bromine, accounts for approximately 75 to 85 percent of ozone damage. Perhaps
the most evident and destructive molecule of this description is chloroflourocarbon (CFC). CFCs were
first used to clean electronic circuit boards, and as time progressed, were used in aerosols and coolants,
such as refrigerators and air conditioners. When CFCs from these products are released into the
atmosphere, the destruction begins. As CFCs are emitted, the molecules float toward the ozone rich
stratosphere. Then, when UV radiation contacts the CFC molecule, this causes one chlorine atom to
liberate. This free chlorine then reacts with an ozone (O3) molecule to form chlorine monoxide (ClO)
and a single oxygen molecule (O2). This reaction can be illustrated by the following chemical
equation: Cl + O3 --> O2 + ClO. Then, a single oxygen atom reacts with a chlorine monoxide
molecule, causing the formation of an oxygen molecule (O2) and a single chlorine atom (O + ClO --> Cl
+ O2). This threatening chlorine atom then continues the cycle and results in further destruction of the
ozone layer. Measures have been taken to reduce the amount of CFC emission, but since CFCs have a
life span of 20-100 years, previously emitted CFCs will do damage for years to come.
Bromine compounds also play a key role in destroying the ozone layer. Some chemical compounds like
Nitrous Oxide and other Nitrogen compounds also have a damaging affect on the ozone layer.

Effects of ozone layer depletion

UV-B (the higher energy UV radiation absorbed by ozone) are generally accepted to be a contributory
factor to skin cancer. In addition, increased surface UV leads to increased troposphere ozone, which is a
health risk to humans. The increased surface UV also represents an increase in the vitamin D synthetic
capacity of the sunlight. The cancer preventive effects of vitamin D represent a possible beneficial effect
of ozone depletion. In terms of health costs, the possible benefits of increased UV irradiance may
outweigh the burden. In other words, a thinning of the ozone layer is the key factor in the greenhouse
effect, and exposes life on Earth to excessive ultra violet radiation, which can increase skin cancer and
cataracts, reduce immune-system responses,
As far as effect on plant is concerned, an increase of UV radiation would be expected to affect crops. A
number of economically important species of plants, such as rice, depend on cyanbacteria residing on

their roots for the retention of nitrogen. Cyanobacteria are sensitive to UV light and they would be
affected by its increase. Thinning of the ozone layer also interfere with the photosynthetic process of
Increased ultraviolet radiation reaching the Earth's surface can have significant detrimental impacts on
animal and plant life. The radiation damages cells, causing damage to DNA and can lead to cell death or
mutation and cancers. Radiation can also cause photochemical reactions in freshwater and marine
waters, forming radicals (such as peroxide and hydroxide) that can cause further biological damage.
Marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean are most at risk. Zooplankton and phytoplankton, the
foundation of the marine food chain, are particularly susceptible to certain types of ultraviolet radiation
and impacts have flow-on effects to fish stocks and larger organisms such as whales. On land, increased
ultraviolet light can cause significant damage to native vegetation and agricultural crops, such as
reduced plant height, reduction in foliage area and changes to tissue composition.
Research has shown a widespread extinction of oceanic phytoplankton (a crucial source of food to
aquatic life) is because of thinning of ozone layer. Researchers speculate that the extinction of plankton
was caused by a significant weakening of the ozone layer at that time when the radiation from the
supernova produced nitrogen oxides that catalyzed the destruction of ozone. Plankton is particularly
susceptible to effects of UV light, and is vitally important to marine food webs.

Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion

As discussed, ozone acts as a shield to protect the Earths surface by absorbing harmful ultraviolet
radiation. If this ozone becomes depleted, then more UV rays will reach the earth. Exposure to higher
amounts of UV radiation could have serious impacts on human beings, animals and plants, such as the
(a) Harm to human health:
* More skin cancers, sunburns and premature aging of the skin.
* More cataracts, blindness and other eye diseases: UV radiation can damage several parts of the eye,
including the lens, cornea, retina and conjunctiva.
* Cataracts (a clouding of the lens) are the major cause of blindness in the world. A sustained 10%
thinning of the ozone layer is expected to result in almost two million new cases of cataracts per year,
* Weakening of the human immune system (immunosuppression). Early findings suggest that too much
UV radiation can suppress the human immune system, which may play a role in the development of skin
(b) Adverse impacts on agriculture, forestry and natural ecosystems:

* Several of the worlds major crop species are particularly vulnerable to increased UV, resulting in
reduced growth, photosynthesis and flowering. Many agricultural crops are sensitive to the burning rays
of the sun, including the worlds main food crops, rice, wheat, corn and soyabean.
* Many species of crops like sweet corn, soyabean, barley, oats, cow peas, carrots, cauliflower, tomato,
cucumber, peas and broccoli are highly sensitive to UV-B radiation. As a result, food production could
be reduced by 10% for every 1% increase of UV-B radiation.
* The effect of ozone depletion on the Indian agricultural sector could be significant.
* Only a few commercially important trees have been tested for UV (UV-B) sensitivity, but early results
suggest that plant growth, especially in seedlings, is harmed by more intense UV radiation.
(c) Damage to marine life:
* In particular, plankton (tiny organisms on the surface layer of oceans) are threatened by increased UV
radiation. Plankton are the first vital step in aquatic food chains.
* Decreases in plankton could disrupt the fresh and saltwater food chains, and lead to a species shift.
* Species of marine animals in their growing stage, including young fish, shrimp larvae and crab larvae,
have been threatened in recent years by the growing UV-B radiation under the Antarctic ozone hole.
Loss of biodiversity in our oceans, rivers and lakes could reduce fish yields for commercial and sport
(d) Animals:
* In domestic animals, UV over exposure may cause eye and skin cancers.
* Materials: Wood, plastic, rubber, fabrics and many construction materials are degraded by UV
* The economic impact of replacing and/or protecting materials could be significant.

The most pronounced decrease in ozone has been in the lower stratosphere. However, the ozone hole is
most usually measured not in terms of ozone concentrations at these levels (which are typically of a few
parts per million) but by reduction in the total column ozone, above a point on the Earth's surface, which
is normally expressed in Dobson units, abbreviated as "DU". Marked decreases in column ozone in the
Antarctic spring and early summer compared to the early 1970s and before have been observed using
instruments such as the Total Ozone Mapping Spectrometer (TOMS).
Reductions of up to 70% in the ozone column observed in the austral (southern hemispheric) spring over
Antarctica and first reported in 1985 (Farman et al. 1985) are continuing. Through the 1990s, total
column ozone in September and October have continued to be 4050% lower than pre-ozone-hole
values. In the Arctic the amount lost is more variable year-to-year than in the Antarctic. The greatest
declines, up to 30%, are in the winter and spring, when the stratosphere is colder.
Reactions that take place on polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) play an important role in enhancing ozone
depletion. PSCs form more readily in the extreme cold of Antarctic stratosphere. This is why ozone
holes first formed, and are deeper, over Antarctica. Early models failed to take PSCs into account and
predicted a gradual global depletion, which is why the sudden Antarctic ozone hole was such a surprise
to many scientists.
In middle latitudes it is preferable to speak of ozone depletion rather than holes. Declines are about 3%
below pre-1980 values for 3560N and about 6% for 3560S. In the tropics, there are no significant
Ozone depletion also explains much of the observed reduction in stratospheric and upper tropospheric
temperatures. The source of the warmth of the stratosphere is the absorption of UV radiation by ozone,
hence reduced ozone leads to cooling. Some stratospheric cooling is also predicted from increases in
greenhouse gases such as CO2; however the ozone-induced cooling appears to be dominant.
Predictions of ozone levels remain difficult. The World Meteorological Organization Global Ozone
Research and Monitoring ProjectReport No. 44 comes out strongly in favor for the Montreal Protocol,
but notes that a UNEP 1994 Assessment overestimated ozone loss for the 19941997 period.
While the effect of the Antarctic ozone hole in decreasing the global ozone is relatively small, estimated
at about 4% per decade, the hole has generated a great deal of interest because:
The decrease in the ozone layer was predicted in the early 1980s to be roughly 7% over a 60 year period.
The sudden recognition in 1985 that there was a substantial "hole" was widely reported in the press. The
especially rapid ozone depletion in Antarctica had previously been dismissed as a measurement error.
Many[were worried that ozone holes might start to appear over other areas of the globe but to date the
only other large-scale depletion is a smaller ozone "dimple" observed during the Arctic spring over the

North Pole. Ozone at middle latitudes has declined, but by a much smaller extent (about 45%

Under the auspices of United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Governments of the world,
including the United States have cooperatively taken action to stop ozone depletion with the "The
Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer", signed in 1987. Scientist's are
concerned that continued global warming will accelerate ozone destruction and increase stratospheric
ozone depletion. Ozone depletion gets worse when the stratosphere (where the ozone layer is), becomes
colder. Because global warming traps heat in the troposphere, less heat reaches the stratosphere which
will make it colder. Greenhouse gases act like a blanket for the troposphere and make the stratosphere
colder. In other words, global warming can make ozone depletion much worse right when it is supposed
to begin its recovery during the next century.
Maintain programs to ensure that ozone-depleting substances are not released and ongoing vigilance is
required to this effect. In fact, global warming, acid rain, ozone layer depletion, and ground-level ozone
pollution all pose a serious threat to the quality of life on Earth. They are separate problems, but, as has
been seen, there are links between each. The use of CFCs not only destroys the ozone layer but also
leads to global warming. Power stations can cause global warming, ozone layer depletion and acid rain:
their CO2 emissions cause global warming; while their SO2 emissions are either converted into
sulphuric acid, which causes acid rain, or become sulphate aerosols, which deplete the ozone layer.
Measures to reduce SO2 emissions from power stations tend, for a given power output, to increase their
CO2 emissions. The situation is complex; but some things are clear. By reducing our dependence on
fossil fuels we help prevent both acid rain and global warming. With appropriate reforestation we can
help reduce the effects of acid rain, while at the same time increasing the uptake of CO2 from the
atmosphere. Regarding ozone layer depletion, the answer is simple: stop the manufacture and use of
CFC's and HCFC's, a measure which, fortunately, most governments are taking steps to ensure.

^ "Part III. The Science of the Ozone Hole". Retrieved
1. ^ "Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are heavier than air, so how do scientists suppose that these
chemicals reach the altitude of the ozone layer to adversely affect it?". Retrieved 2009-03-08.
2. ^ Dobson, R. (2005). "Ozone depletion will bring big rise in number of cataracts". BMJ 331
(7528): 12921295. doi:10.1136/bmj.331.7528.1292-d. PMID 16322012. edit
3. ^ Newman, Paul A.. "Chapter 5: Stratospheric Photochemistry Section 4.2.8 ClX catalytic
reactions". In Todaro, Richard M.. Stratospheric ozone: an electronic textbook. NASA Goddard
Space Flight Center Atmospheric Chemistry and Dynamics Branch.
3. ^ Stratospheric Ozone Depletion by Chlorofluorocarbons (Nobel Lecture)Encyclopedia of

The ozone layer is a belt of naturally occurring ozone gas that sits 9.3 to 18.6 miles (15 to 30 kilometers)
above Earth and serves as a shield from the harmful ultraviolet B radiation emitted by the sun.
Ozone is a highly reactive molecule that contains three oxygen atoms. It is constantly being formed and
broken down in the high atmosphere, 6.2 to 31 miles (10 to 50 kilometers) above Earth, in the region
called the stratosphere.
Today, there is widespread concern that the ozone layer is deteriorating due to the release of pollution
containing the chemicals chlorine and bromine. Such deterioration allows large amounts of ultraviolet B
rays to reach Earth, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts in humans and harm animals as well.
Extra ultraviolet B radiation reaching Earth also inhibits the reproductive cycle of phytoplankton, singlecelled organisms such as algae that make up the bottom rung of the food chain. Biologists fear that
reductions in phytoplankton populations will in turn lower the populations of other animals. Researchers
also have documented changes in the reproductive rates of young fish, shrimp, and crabs as well as frogs
and salamanders exposed to excess ultraviolet B.
Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals found mainly in spray aerosols heavily used by industrialized
nations for much of the past 50 years, are the primary culprits in ozone layer breakdown. When CFCs
reach the upper atmosphere, they are exposed to ultraviolet rays, which causes them to break down into
substances that include chlorine. The chlorine reacts with the oxygen atoms in ozone and rips apart the
ozone molecule.
One atom of chlorine can destroy more than a hundred thousand ozone molecules, according to the the
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The ozone layer above the Antarctic has been particularly impacted by pollution since the mid-1980s.
This regions low temperatures speed up the conversion of CFCs to chlorine. In the southern spring and
summer, when the sun shines for long periods of the day, chlorine reacts with ultraviolet rays,
destroying ozone on a massive scale, up to 65 percent. This is what some people erroneously refer to as
the "ozone hole." In other regions, the ozone layer has deteriorated by about 20 percent.
About 90 percent of CFCs currently in the atmosphere were emitted by industrialized countries in the
Northern Hemisphere, including the United States and Europe. These countries banned CFCs by 1996,
and the amount of chlorine in the atmosphere is falling now. But scientists estimate it will take another
50 years for chlorine levels to return to their natural levels.

Like an infection that grows more and more virulent, the continent-size hole in Earth's ozone layer

keeps getting bigger

and bigger.

Each year since the late 1970s, much of the protective layer of stratospheric ozone
disappeared during September, creating what is popularly known as the ozone hole

above Antarctica has

. The Antarctic hole now

measures about 9 million square miles, nearly the size of North America. Less dramatic, still significant, depletion
of ozone levels has been recorded around the globe. With less ozone in the atmosphere

strikes Earth, causing more skin cancer

, more ultraviolet

, eye damage, and possible harm to crops.

What is ozone? How did researchers discover its role in Earth's atmosphere and the devastating consequences of
its depletion? The following article, adapted from an account by Dr. F. Sherwood Rowland, a pioneering
researcher in the field who shared the 1995 Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work, attempts to answer these and
other questions. In doing so, it dramatically illustrates how science works and, in particular, how basic research-motivated by a desire to understand nature--often leads to practical results of immense societal benefit that could
not have been anticipated when the research first began.