The Implications of Ozone Depletion on Human Health

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The Implications of Ozone Depletion on Human Health


Hairspray. Refrigerators. Air conditioners. These everyday luxuries, while making human life more comfortable, are taxing our health seriously. Clorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are anthropogenic chemicals used in refrigerants and as propellants in aerosols. CFCs, also known as freons, are also the primary culprit behind the depletion of stratospheric ozone, which allows harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the Earth and its inhabitants.

When CFC molecules reach the stratosphere, the sun's radiation breaks it apart, freeing the chorine atom to destroy ozone molecules. The effect is a growing ozone hole which forms over Antarctica in October and usually lasts through mid November. During the annual ozone hole, the amount of UV radiation that reaches the Earth can double. Ozone depletion serves as a major health risk for human beings. The three primary health effects of ultraviolet radiation on human health are damage to the skin,eyes, and immune system.


UV radiation causes significant damage to human skin, in the form of sunburns, aging, skin cancer, and nonmelanoma tumors. Human skin damage is primarily a result of tanning. The

amount of UV exposure absorbed by a person is a direct result of the intensity of the light absorbed, the length of time of the exposure, and whether or not the skin was protected by clothing or sunscreen. Skin damage can be prevented by limiting when and how long one is exposed to sunlight, and by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen. Avoid exposure to sunlight during mid-day hours, when it is most intense. Tight weave clothing, and hats, protect against the sun's rays. Tanning beds, while popular, are also ...

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...ening diseases.


Stratospheric ozone absorbs 97-99% of ultraviolet radiation. As this protective layer continues to dissentigrate, human health will suffer. One American dies every hour from skin cancer, a direct result of ozone depletion by anthropogenic chemicals, primarily CFCs, which damage the ozone layer. Alternate chemicals are now being used in the place of CFCs that will not damage statospheric ozone, and there is international recognition of the importance of developing these chemicals. The Montreal Protocol is an international treaty which limits the production of ozone depleting substances. Still, human health is at risk from the deletion of ozone, and the risk factor will continue to rise unless people and industries become more aware of the implications connected with everyday use of chemicals which destroy stratospheric ozone.
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