Quite often we hear about the ozone layer and how important it is to our planet. It is a layer that is located in the stratosphere and is easily damaged by certain human activities. However, could you say why the ozone layer is so important for life on Earth?
What is the ozone layer and how important is it?
Ozone is a molecule that is made up of three oxygen atoms and is gaseous in the atmosphere. It is a molecule that is found in nature and that, on our planet, is especially concentrated in the so-called ozone layer, which is nothing more than a layer that is located in a part of our atmosphere , specifically in the stratosphere (between 15 and 50 kilometers high from the surface).
This ozone layer extends throughout the entire stratosphere and is of fundamental importance for life on earth, since ozone molecules act as a shield from solar radiation. In other words, the radiation that reaches us through the sun’s activity is minimized because, before reaching the biosphere that is located on the planet’s surface, it passes through these ozone molecules, which makes a part of said radiation returned to space . Consequently, the light and solar radiation that reaches the land and the oceans does not become dangerous for living beings.
What is the ozone hole
The hole in the ozone layer is, as its name suggests, a reduction in the amount of ozone in the ozone layer, allowing large amounts of ultraviolet light to enter our planet. This hole in the ozone layer is located at the poles (on the Antarctic continent and the Arctic Ocean) and is especially large during the respective springs of both hemispheres. Later, during the summer, it seems to recover. Then the degradation process begins at the opposite pole and the process repeats itself more or less cyclically.
This hole responds to the natural fluctuations of ozone in the atmosphere by the electromagnetic field of the planet. However, due to human activity , it is also true that certain types of gases that are emitted end up rising to the stratosphere and degrading ozone molecules. In other words, some gases produced by human activity destroy ozone molecules, which makes the ozone layer thinner and, consequently, the hole is larger.
This is a real environmental and health problem , since excess solar radiation is dangerous for any form of life and, in the case of animals, it can be the cause of diseases of a very varied type, ranging from skin burns to even cancer.
Due to the importance of the ozone layer in protecting life on Earth, more and more governments and institutions advocate taking measures to protect it . This protection has to come mainly from the elimination of those gases that destroy ozone. In this sense, the best way for ordinary citizens to protect the ozone layer is to avoid consuming products that contain, or that for their manufacture involve, the release of ozone-depleting gases into the atmosphere. Some of the most dangerous gases for the ozone layer are the following:
CFCs stand for chlorofluorocarbons, and they are the most destructive gases that can be used to destroy the ozone layer. They were widely used in the case of products that were released in the form of an aerosol. Since the second half of the 20th century, its use has been banned or greatly reduced. However, to this day you can still find some products that include them, so it is always good to look on the product label that it is a “CFC-free” aerosol. In addition to aerosols, old appliances such as refrigerators and air conditioners also used them, so it is essential that, when disposing of this equipment, they are taken to a clean point so that they are managed properly. In the following article we will talk more in depth about CFC contamination.
Also known simply as “halon”. It is a product that can be found in some fire extinguishers. The best way to avoid this is that, when buying an extinguisher, we make sure that it does not include this gas.
It is a pesticide that is used in some wood plantations but that, when released into the environment, destroys ozone in the atmosphere. The best way to avoid this is to make sure that the furniture we buy is not made with woods treated with this pesticide.
It is a gas released by automobiles in the combustion of gasoline and, especially, diesel. The best way to avoid their production is to reduce the use of these means of transport to the minimum possible, either by opting for public transport, electric vehicle or bicycle. Likewise, we can also find nitrous oxide in the decomposition of farm manure, so reducing our consumption of food from animal origin also helps to avoid the deterioration of the ozone layer.