Our Earth is a pretty amazing place. It has the ability to sustain life, and it does so in a variety of different ways. We have everything we need here to survive, and the Earth does its fair share to keep us protected, including keeping us warm and snug with layers around the planet.
One such layer is the stratosphere, a mass of protective gasses that cling to Earth. And the ozone is one layer within the stratosphere. You have probably heard a lot about the ozone layer in the news or in school. But do you know what it is? What is the ozone layer, and why is the ozone layer important? We’ll answers these questions and more in this post.
What Is the Ozone Layer?
The ozone layer is a pretty small part of the atmosphere, consisting of approximately three molecules for every 10 million molecules of air. However, despite this size, the role the ozone layer plays is an important one. In essence, it functions like a sponge and soaks up harmful radiation from the sun.
The Earth needs some radiation to thrive, but too much can harm living things. The ozone layer traps ultraviolet radiation (UV light), which can damage DNA molecules in both plants and animals. There are two types of UV light: UVB and UVA.
Neither UVB or UVA is good for humans or the planet. UVB rays cause sunburns and cancers. UVA light is even more detrimental than UVB. It can penetrate into our skin more deeply and cause skin cancer, premature aging, and melanoma. Thankfully, the ozone layer absorbs about 98% of UVA light.
Is There a Problem with the Ozone Layer?
Humans have had a huge impact on the environment. Through the advancement of technology, we’ve developed products that make our lives easier, but those products have had a negative impact on the world. Some of the chemicals that have been developed that cause harm are called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and they are thinning the ozone layer.
Ozone molecules are made of three joined oxygen atoms, and they can be naturally destroyed and reformed. However, when CFCs enter the atmosphere, ozone has difficulty reforming after it’s been broken apart.
There are currently several holes in the ozone layer. However, the name “holes” is a bit misleading, because these areas aren’t exactly holes, they are more like thin patches. The thinnest ozone layers on the planet are near the North and South Poles.
What Is Being Done to Help the Ozone Layer?
Without the ozone layer, harmful UVA and UVB rays will find their way onto the planet’s surface. We already know that both of these damage living creatures, so having an abundance of them could potentially have a major impact on life on Earth.
In the 1970s, it was discovered that the ozone layer was being impacted by human-made chemicals, so rules, regulations, and laws were put in place to protect the planet. Aerosol cans were considered to be the biggest threat, so their production slowed down considerably.
To this day, the state of the ozone layer is monitored by a variety of different organizations. While a lot of damage was done initially because of products developed by humans, the plans put in place to remediate those issues are seeing success.
It takes a long time for ozone-depleting substances to be removed from the atmosphere, but the process is and has been occurring for the past two decades. There’s hope that within the 21st century the ozone layer will be able to recover from the damage that was done.
A Lesson for Future Generations
Thankfully, humans have been able to recognize and rectify the damage they caused to the ozone layer of our planet. We only have one home and if we don’t take care of it, we’ll have nowhere else to go. There are a variety of other environmental issues that face the planet, many of which have caused massive damage. The only way to undo these issues is to put rules, laws, and regulations into place, much like what was done to help the ozone layer.
To accomplish the goal of healing the planet, we all have to work together. In the end, keeping our planet healthy benefits us all. No one wins if the environment fails, and it shouldn’t be a contest to see who comes out ahead anyway.
Want to learn more about how pollution impacts our planet? We encourage you to play this educational quiz: An Introduction to Climate Change.