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Ozone Layer – Causes, Effects & Depletion

Last Updated : 25 Oct, 2023
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Ozone Layer: Oxygen is a member of the chalcogen group of the periodic table, a highly reactive nonmetal that quickly forms oxides with most elements and other compounds. After hydrogen and helium, oxygen is the most abundant element on Earth and the universe’s third most common element. Diatomic oxygen gas makes up 20.95 % of the Earth’s atmosphere nowadays. 

Ozone is too reactive at sea level to last long in the atmosphere. At a height of around 20 kilometers, it is created from air oxygen in the presence of sunshine. The ozone layer shields the surface of the world from UV radiation. It’s a diamagnetic, unstable gas with a pungent odor that protects the Earth from dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun.

Ozone is a potent oxidant with a wide range of industrial and consumer applications. However, ozone damages mucous and respiratory tissues in mammals, as well as plant tissues, due to its strong oxidizing potential. While this makes ozone a serious respiratory hazard and pollutant near the ground, a higher ozone layer concentration is advantageous because it prevents harmful UV rays from reaching the Earth’s surface.

What is Ozone Layer?

The ozone layer is a portion of the upper atmosphere that lies between 15 and 35 kilometers above the Earth’s surface. It effectively filters out almost all sun radiation, including UV and other types of radiation that can harm or kill most living things. Peak ozone concentrations are seen at altitudes of 20-25km. Atmospheric transport activities in the middle and high latitudes contribute to the lower height of the peak-concentration zone in the high latitudes. It also occurs as the tropopause height decreases. The majority of the surviving ozone is found in the troposphere, which extends from the Earth’s surface to the stratosphere.

Interactions between some contaminants, bright sunshine and high temperatures frequently cause near-surface ozone. It’s one of the main ingredients of photochemical smog, a problem that affects many cities and suburbs around the world, especially in the summer.

Ozone Layer Definition

Ozone layer can be defined as a specific layer within the Earth’s stratosphere characterized by an elevated concentration of ozone (O3) molecules. This layer serves a crucial role in the Earth’s atmosphere.

Properties of Ozone

  • Ozone has a distinct odor.
  • It is completely non-toxic.
  • When the concentration exceeds roughly 100 ppm, breathing becomes difficult, causing headaches and nausea.
  • It is a powerful oxidizing agent because it easily liberates atoms of nascent oxygen.
  • Because nitrogen oxides react swiftly with ozone, it’s possible that nitrogen oxides produced by supersonic jet aircraft exhaust systems are steadily lowering the ozone layer’s concentration.

Uses of Ozone

  • It’s a disinfectant, germicide, and water steriliser all rolled into one.
  • It’s used to bleach oils, ivory, and other materials.
  • Ozone is used in water treatment plants that don’t have filtration.
  • Several ozone-depleting chemicals have refrigerant qualities, meaning they can easily transfer heat from one place to another.

Ozone Layer

Ozone Layer Depletion

Scientists found a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, which turn their attention toward the environmental issues and the steps that should be taken to alleviate them. This hole is called ozone layer depletion. Chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons all contribute to the ozone depletion.

What is Ozone Layer Depletion?

Ozone layer depletion is the gradual thinning of the earth’s ozone layer in the upper atmosphere caused by the production of chemical compounds containing gaseous bromine or chlorine as a result of industry or other human activities.

Chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and methyl chloroform are examples of ozone-depleting chlorine compounds. Bromine-containing ozone-depleting chemicals include halons, methyl bromide, and hydro bromofluorocarbons. Chlorofluorocarbons are the most frequent ozone-damaging chemicals. The chlorine atom does not react with ozone when it joins another molecule. 

The Montreal Protocol was developed in 1987 as a way to protect the earth’s ozone layer by prohibiting the use, manufacturing, and import of ozone-depleting substances, as well as reducing their concentration in the atmosphere.

Cause of Ozone Layer Depletion

  1. The main factor for ozone depletion is CFCs. These are emitted by solvents, spray aerosols, freezers, and air conditioners.
  2. UV light destroys chlorofluorocarbon molecules in the stratosphere, releasing chlorine atoms. These atoms degrade ozone by interacting with it.
  3. According to studies, uncontrolled rocket launches destroy the ozone layer far more than CFCs. If not addressed, severe ozone layer depletion might occur by 2050.
  4. The ozone layer is eroded by natural mechanisms such as Sunspots and stratospheric winds, which have been discovered.
  5. Ozone depletion is also due to volcanic eruptions.

Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS)

Ozone-Depleting Substances (ODS) are chemical compounds that, when released into the atmosphere, have the potential to deplete or break down the ozone layer, particularly in the stratosphere. These substances are harmful because they contain chlorine, fluorine, carbon, and bromine atoms, which can catalytically destroy ozone molecules.

  1. Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs): CFCs were widely used as refrigerants, propellants in aerosol sprays, and in the production of foam materials. They release chlorine when they reach the stratosphere, which is highly destructive to ozone.
  2. Halons: Halons are used in fire extinguishing systems. They contain both chlorine and bromine, making them highly effective at destroying ozone.
  3. Carbon Tetrachloride: This compound was used in the production of CFCs and as a solvent. It releases chlorine when it breaks down in the atmosphere.
  4. Methyl Chloroform: Methyl chloroform was used as a solvent and in some industrial processes. Like CFCs, it releases chlorine when it breaks down in the atmosphere.

FAQs on Ozone Layer

1. Is ozone toxic when inhaled?

Ozone can be harmful to man kind, whether in its pure form or in conjunction with other pollutants. If inhaled, it can damage the lungs.

2. In Ozone, how many lone pairs are there?

Ozone having two lone pairs for the double bond that includes oxygen, one for the positive charge that contains oxygen, and three for the negative charge that contains oxygen. Each ozone molecule has six lone pairs.

3. Ozone layer effects on humans?

As the ozone layer depletes, more UV rays penetrate the atmosphere. When UV rays come into contact with human skin, they can induce malignant skin cancer. It has the potential to cause cataracts. When UV rays combine with vitamin D, it is created in our bodies.

4. What is ozone layer depletion?

Ozone layer depletion is the steady lowering of the earth’s ozone layer in the upper atmosphere as a result of the generation of chemical compounds containing gaseous bromine or chlorine from industry or other human activities.

5. Why is the significance of the ozone layer?

The ozone Layer present in the stratosphere and not allow the sun’s UV rays, to enter in the atmosphere, it help in keeping the Earth’s surface from becoming sterile and human from the skin cancer.

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