The ozone has a ‘hole’ lot of problems

Posted March 16, 2007

Sher Porter
Staff Writer

In case anyone forgot, there is a hole in the ozone layer and it will not go away on its own.

The ozone layer is being deplete because harmful pollutants are being released into the atmosphere.

Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are being replaced by hydrochlorofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, as a safer substance for the ozone layer.

This substance can be found in products like refrigerators and air conditioners.

HCFCs, like CFCs, will be phased out in the future.

“I believe that what we’re doing to our atmosphere is very detrimental to our health in general,” professor of biology Robert Neher said.

The ozone layer is located in the stratosphere, the next atmosphere above ours.

It is created by ultraviolet rays hitting the stratosphere and splitting the oxygen molecules.

The oxygen atom attaches to two other oxygen atoms to form ozone.

The hole in the ozone layer was first measured in 1985 by British scientists.

Two years later CFCs were restricted by the Montreal Protocol, an international agreement to reduce the use of CFCs.

CFCs, which are made up of chlorine, fluorine and carbon, and other ozone-depleting substances destroy the ozone by breaking ozone molecules apart.

When ozone-depleting substances enter into the atmosphere, the atoms dissociate into free radicals and attach to ozone molecules.

Once attached, it splits the oxygen molecule and the free radical attaches itself to an oxygen atom.

The free radicals have a long life in the stratosphere allowing each free radical to destroy many ozone molecules.

As the ozone layer begins to deplete, more ultraviolet rays are able to reach the earth’s surface.

This can cause skin cancer and damage the eyes and the immune system.

“I think every citizen needs to be educated about what is going on in our environment,” Neher said.

Although there is a temporary alternative to CFCs, the HCFCs are still harmful to the ozone layer.

Hydrogen in the HCFCs reacts with the ozone to break apart ozone molecules.

“If a lot of hydrogen goes into the atmosphere, it can remove ozone,” Professor of Chemistry Iraj Parchamazad said. “But people don’t say that.”

There is good news because the ozone is expected to make a recovery, but not any time soon.

The time it takes for the substances to reach the ozone layer is unknown so it is unknown how long it will take for the ozone to make its recovery.
The long life of free radicals is also a factor.

“It will take a long time, but it can come back,” Parchamazad said.

Another issue with determining the recovery time is that the size of the ozone hole changes throughout the year.

The hole grows from August through October and stabilizes once the temperatures rise and the polar vortex loses strength.

“That’s like the first step – education,” said Alyse Beni, sophomore psychology major who is involved with the La Verne chapter of the California Public Interest Research Group.

Neher is not concerned about the ozone layer thinning out as much as he is concerned about reducing pollutants in the atmosphere.

CFCs are one of four major greenhouse gases.

Methane, carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and CFCs trap heat in the atmosphere, without letting it escape.

The trapped heat causes the Earth to become warmer. This is why earth is warm and can sustain life, however when too much heat is trapped it aids in the cause of global warming.

“Even just being aware and just like spreading the word helps,” Beni said.

Although the use of CFCs has been restricted by some countries, Parchamazad said that countries such as the United States are selling the technology to make CFCs to developing countries.

“There is no separate atmosphere between the United States and other countries,” Parchamazad said.

Neher believes that the some of the blame of the atmospheric condition can be given to the government.

He believes that the government needs to pay more attention to the environment.

“They downplay good scientific fact. They tend to ignore information that is given to them,” Neher said.

“It’s up to us to elect the right government,” he added.

Neher knows that the government is not the only contributor to the condition of the atmosphere. Neher believes that people need to demand more environmentally safe products so that the atmosphere can become cleaner.

“Our long–time survival depends on it,” Neher said.

Sher Porter can be reached at sporter4@ulv.edu.

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