The ozone layer of the stratosphere protects our planet from the damaging UV rays of the sun. Nitrous oxides (NOx) and substances called volatile organic compounds (VOC’s) emitted from vehicles, factories, utilities, and manufacturing certain products are released into the troposphere, they then travel up to the stratosphere where they react with sunlight; the chemical reactions that occur due to the presence of the NOx and VOC’s destroy the fragile covalent bonds of the three oxygen molecules that compose ozone. As these bonds are broken the ozone layer thins and forms holes in the atmosphere, allowing dangerous UV rays into the troposphere.
After the Montreal Protocol was established in 1987, the EPA began regulating and prohibiting the use of substances that damage the stratospheric ozone. CFC’s have been removed from commercial products and substitutes for CFC’s have been developed to eliminate the need for CFC’s. Scientists project that if these measures are followed and production of ozone damaging substances is ceased, that the ozone layer could return to its normal state by 2050 (Ozone- Good Up High, 2011).
Ozone levels are not only important in the stratosphere, ozone in the troposphere can damage the lungs, eyes, skin, and mucous membranes of the human body, as well as damage vegetation, decreasing viable crop yields and thus food sources. Cities and suburbs are densely populated with more people, vehicles, and commercial facilities than rural areas. The increased NOx and VOC emissions in these areas are much greater and are highly condensed, releasing larger amounts of pollution into the air. Public transportation in cities and continued regulation of ozone causing and damaging substances will help reduce the emissions as well as many green energy projects that are being utilized instead of methods that emit the harmful NOx and VOC.
Education is always the biggest hurdle when it comes to getting citizens to do anything. They are either unaware, ignorant, or don’t care to learn about the damage humans are causing, not only to the planet, but to themselves in the end.
One thing I know I can do to help reduce the dangers of ozone damage is take better care of my car to get better use out of the resources I put into and therefore emit. I also double checked my hairspray: while CFC’s have been removed from these products, this particular brand stated it contains up to 55% VOC’s; time to start looking at labels a little closer!
National Library of Medicine. (August 2010). Ozone. Retrieved from http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=20
United States Environmental Protection Agency. (July 21, 2011). Ozone- Good Up High Bad Near By. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/oar/oaqps/gooduphigh/index.html