What is Ozone layer?

ozone layer

Image credit: Flickr NASA Earth Observatory

What is Ozone?

Ozone is one of the naturally occurring trace gases (a gas which makes up less than 1% by volume of the Earth’s atmosphere), also known as the Greenhouse Gases, that make up our atmosphere.

Where Ozone is found?

Ozone is naturally present as a layer (ozone layer) in the Stratosphere (one of the five layers of the atmosphere). The significance of ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere can be ascertained from the fact that it blocks most of the sun’s deadly Ultra-Violet (UV) rays from reaching the Earth, which otherwise would cause a host of ailments including eye damage and skin cancer. Another important role that the ozone layer plays is that in the lower atmosphere it traps the heat of the sun and re-radiates it in all directions (known as the greenhouse effect).  This helps keeps the Earth warm and without this the Earth’s temperature would reach sub-zero levels each night.  Other than its natural form Ozone is also created through human activity (found in Troposphere, the layer closest to Earth) and is potentially harmful for all forms of life on Earth.

Dangers to Ozone:

ozone layer

Image credit: Flickr NASA Goddard Photo and Video

Owing to their contrasting roles, the natural ozone found in Stratosphere is called the “good” ozone and the one in Troposphere (man-made) is called the “bad” ozone.  The biggest threat to life on Earth is the imbalance (being created by human being’s industrial endeavours) between the good and bad ozone, whereby the “good” ozone is getting depleted while the “bad” ozone is increasing in the air we breathe.  The “good” ozone depletion is also attributed to industrialization, as many industries use a group of manufactured chemicals containing chlorine and/or bromine (termed as ODS or ozone-depleting substances).  These chemicals float up in the Stratosphere and are causing the thinning of the ozone layer.

What actions are taken on international level to protect ozone

Governments of various nations have signed an international treaty by banning production of numerous substances believed to be responsible for ozone depletion (Montreal Protocol) and a lot of other initiatives are also being introduced and implemented by the global industrial community to check further damage.

How can we contribute?

At an individual level we can contribute by:

  • Using products which are labelled “Ozone-friendly”
  • Opting to buy for CFC-free Air-conditioners and Refrigerators
  • Ensuring proper upkeep and maintenance of our home, office and car air-conditioning, including judicious usage
  • Not using / replacing halon fire extinguishers with alternatives (carbon dioxide or foam)
  • Sensitizing and generating awareness among people around us

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