September 16 is Ozone Day, when nations come together to make a promise to preserve the Ozone layer.

The Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary describes the ozone layer as a layer of air high above the Earth, which contains a lot of ozone, and which prevents harmful ultraviolet light from the sun from reaching the Earth.

When an actual “ozone hole” was discovered over the Antarctic in the early 1980s, it was realised that stricter measures had to be taken to protect the layer.

In 1987, an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol was drawn between 180 nations to stop making and using gases that deplete the ozone. For the past 10 years September 16 has been celebrated as the International Day or the Ozone Day. Nations came together for the preservation of the Ozone Layer as proclaimed by the U.N. General Assembly on December 19, 1994. The focus was on the depletion of the ozone layer.

Protective cover

The ozone in the atmosphere protects the earth from the sun's powerful ultraviolet radiation. This blanket of protection is called the ozone layer. But there are elements that are breaking the protective ozone layer. Scientists discovered that chemical compounds called CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons), that are in aerosol sprays and refrigerants, were actually destroying the ozone faster than it could be replaced.

The oxygen molecules in the air that we breathe are two oxygen atoms fused together. But in the stratosphere, there are molecules of ozone, which are three oxygen atoms bound together. This layer of ozone filters out a lot of the sun's UV-B rays, which are harmful to life on earth.

Some UV-B light that reaches us is helpful in converting cholesterol to Vitamin D in our skin. But too much can cause suntans and sunburns.

If the ozone layer gets depleted, too many UV-B rays will reach the earth's surface, causing health problems for animals (like skin cancer) and harming plant life.

When ozone forms on the ground, it is harmful to people, crops, and trees. The ozone that forms on the ground when exhaust from cars, factories, and chemicals mix with strong sunlight and hot temperatures, creates smog. This can cause serious breathing problems.

The effects of ozone depletion can also cause a greenhouse effect, gradually warming the earth to the point where our polar ice caps melt and flood the coastal cities.

But all is not lost, the scientists feel, with the help and support of the people and stringent measures to protect the ozone layer, they can win the battle, say in 50 years time. Protect Earth by protecting the ozone layer, for it is our world, the only home we have.

Do your bit

Plant more trees as they can absorb carbon-di-oxide.

Save energy.

Use eco-friendly products and goods.

Spread more awareness.

Use buses and trains instead of cars, as they can carry a lot more people in one journey. This brings down pollution.

Walk or cycle as it does not create any pollution. Regular exercise is good for you too.

Don't use the car for short trips, a car pool is wise.

Turn off lights when they are not in use.

Recycle.

Composting fruit and vegetable waste reduces garbage dumps and burning of rubbish.

Avoid using disposable stuff or plastic.

Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Avoid using pesticides.

Start a weekly neighbourhood clean up.

Join groups and be an active part of the programme — “Save the ozone layer, save our children” is on Facebook.

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