The UN General Assembly has designated September 16 as International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. Each one of us has the responsibility to do preserve it.

Ever heard of blanket protection? Imagine if all of us were covered uniformly, cosily drawn away from the harmful and powerful radiation around us. The ozone layer in the atmosphere is our very own warrior that protects earth from the sun’s powerful ultraviolet radiation. However, over the last three decades this buffer is being bombarded by pollution and has resulted in the breaking down of this protective layer. Scientists have discovered that chemical compounds called CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), found in aerosol sprays and refrigerants are the main reason for the depletion of this protective shield.

The layer above the Antarctic has been the most impacted, due to multiple factors. One is that the industralised nations in the northern hemisphere like the U.S. and those in Europe are responsible for having emitted a lot of CFCs into the atmosphere. The other reason is the conducive temperature of the region. The scale of the damage here has been measured to be as much as 65 per cent.

Effects of depletion

The ozone depletion has led to a worldwide concern as the thinning down of this protective coat is allowing harmful ultraviolet light to pass through, which in turn is impacting the environment and has led to many health hazards in humans. Some research also shows that further shrinking of the ozone layer will result in an increase in the number of cases of malaria, cataracts and other infectious disease.

The depletion of the layer impacts the lifecycle of plants, leading to a disruption in the food chain. Animals and water bodies are also affected.

Even the most basic microscopic organisms such as plankton may die out. And this only means that all other animals that are above plankton in the food chain will be wiped out in time, along with other ecosystems such as forests and deserts.

With every one per cent depletion of the ozone layer, an additional two per cent of the ultraviolet rays can reach the surface of the planet. Governments across the world are taking proactive steps to make sure we don’t wipe away the ozone layer entirely and to prevent earth from becoming a barren land with just traces of life in it. If proper steps are not taken, the southern hemisphere could be in grave danger as an additional 20 per cent depletion could result in natural calamities like tornadoes and tsunamis.

Agreeing for a cause

It was not a very good morning when one fine day scientists discovered an actual ozone hole. They knew stronger steps needed to be taken to protect the ozone layer. In 1987 an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol was made between 180 nations to stop making and using the ozone-depleting gases. If these countries keep their promise, the ozone layer will recover over time. Some scientists estimate that it will take about 50 years.

What you can do

1. Reduce the use of vehicles as vehicular emissions are harmful to the ozone layer. Car pool, take the public transport, walk or cycle instead.

2. Use eco-friendly household cleaning products. Toxic chemicals in cleaning agents harm the ozone.

3. Encourage growth of plants in your house/ neighbourhood.

4. Tell elders to keep the CFCs from the refrigerators and air-conditioners in check. If they’re being discarded, do so responsibly.

5. Create awareness by talking about this environmental issue with your friends, at school and at home.