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Ozone Depletion: Dispelling the O3 Molecule Myths
Earth’s ozone layer is a naturally occurring layer of gas that sits 15 to 30 kilometers above sea level. It protects life on Earth from the destructive ultraviolet B radiation that the Sun emits. Ozone is a molecule of 3 oxygen atoms, highly reactive, and it is constantly being broken down and reformed again up in the Stratosphere.
When it was discovered that the ozone layer was thinning in 1985, there was worldwide action to reduce chlorofluorocarbons, commonly called CFCs. Thomas Midgley, Jr. invented chlorofluorocarbons in the 1920s. They were used in refrigeration and air conditioning, as well as in the processes of cleaning certain delicate electronic equipment. CFCs were also heavily used in aerosol propellants in products like hairspray and body spray.
Myth #1: CFCs are heavier than air and don’t reach the ozone layer.
This is FALSE. While it’s true that CFCs are heavy molecules like some other ozone depleting substances (ODS), tropospheric winds stir ODS molecules up into the stratosphere.
A CFC molecule takes 5 – 7 years to get from ground level to the stratosphere, and stays adrift up there for about 100 years. It will destroy 100,000 ozone molecules during that century.
Myth #2: Volcanoes are the real cause of ozone layer depletion.
This is FALSE. While volcanic eruptions do inject some hydrogen chloride into the atmosphere, most eruptions are too weak to reach the stratosphere. Man-made CFCs are the main reason for ozone depletion.
Myth #3: The hole in the ozone layer is only above Antarctica.
This is FALSE. While it is true that there is now a huge hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica, empirical evidence shows us that the ozone layer is being depleted in many places worldwide.
Myth #4: Higher UV levels aren’t even linked with the ozone.
This is FALSE. There has been shown to be a clear connection between higher harmful UV radiation levels and the thinning of the ozone.
**Laboratory experiments have confirmed that ozone absorbs UV rays. It is important to continue to spread awareness about environmental destruction so that we can begin to reverse the catastrophic effects. Start by sharing this information with your friends and family. **