Do You Know Your Ozone?
By Shanuka Kadupitiyage Ceylon Today Features
You might already have heard about the Ozone layer from school. It’s something we all talk about thanks to global warming that’s ongoing at the moment. With the international day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer set on 16 September, why not take a little time to know more about this protective shield that the whole world depends on.
An invisible shield
Invisible to the eye; the ozone layer acts as a shield over the earth, protecting all life from the harmful rays coming from the sun. As useful as the sun is (we wouldn’t be alive without it), not everything coming from the sun is good for life on earth. One of the most harmful of them is ultraviolet radiation (UV).
While UV does reach us at the earth’s surface, what we experience is only the weakened down remains of the truly harmful rays. However, even the weakened rays are harmful enough to cause sunburn, harm to the immune system and even damage to your genes as well as skin cancer.
Truly, life on earth wouldn’t be the same without this important shield, protecting us from the brunt of our sun’s harmful radiation.
How it works
The ozone layer absorbs almost 99 per cent of the sun’s harmful UV using a gas called (you guessed it) ozone.
While we need oxygen, a gas consisting of two oxygen atoms, ozone consists of three oxygen atoms bonded together. However, this is an unstable bond that breaks when exposed to UV.
Also, oxygen is broken down by UV and ozone is formed alongside that as well.
This breaking and forming of oxygen and ozone absorbs harmful UV and stops it from reaching the ground.
You might think this shield that protects us from such harmful rays is very thick and strong, but the true thickness of the ozone layer might shock you.
Take three of your parents’ credit cards and stack them on top of each other, that’s roughly how thick the ozone layer is that protects you, me and every other living plant or animal from being burnt by the sun’s UV rays.
Feeling nervous now?
A battered shield
Unfortunately, this really thin layer of protection is under attack every single day. Most of the pollutants that harm the ozone layer come from the things humans do.
Gases used in old air conditioners, refrigerators, fire extinguishers and aerosols used in some perfumes and body sprays all harm the ozone layer. Huge animal farms are also a major contributor as well.
All this led to scientists discovering a huge hole in the ozone layer appearing in the late 1970s, causing alarm all over the world which led to the leaders of the world gathering together to take action.
Action is taken
This year, the world celebrates 35 years of the Vienna Convention, a gathering of the world’s leaders in an effort to protect the ozone layer. Governments, scientists and industries banded together to take measures to remove the use of ozone harming substances and thanks to that, the ozone layer is healing and becoming much healthier.
Although there is progress, there is much to be done. Ask your parents or teachers for help to learn more about this important shield that protects everyone from the harmful rays of the sun.