Forty years ago scientists began to warn us that a hole in the layer of ozone could have a serious effect on life on Earth.
The good news is that the controlled use of ozone depleting substances (ODS) is helping protect the planet, and the first signs of ozone recovery are visible.
This is partly thanks to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, signed in 1987.
The signing of the protocol is celebrated each year on September 16, International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer.
The ozone layer is a fragile shield of gas that protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the UV rays of the sun.
Concentrations of ozone in the atmosphere vary naturally according to temperature, latitude and the weather.
However, scientific evidence shows that certain chemicals produced by humans were largely responsible for the creation of the Antarctic ozone hole and global ozone losses, resulting from the use of ODS. These include industrial gases which have been used in aerosol sprays, refrigerators, air conditioners, fire extinguishers and crop fumigation.
ODS stay in the atmosphere for many years and continue to cause damage, so while the ozone level is showing signs or repair, it’s unlikely to recover fully before the second half of the century unless additional action is taken
We can all play our individual part in protecting the Earth’s ozone layer.
- Make sure that old fridges and air conditioners are disposed of safely by taking them to a recycling yard. Take care not to damage the cooling circuit which contains the ODS.
- Ensure technicians repairing your refrigerator or air conditioner recover and recycle the old ODS so they’re not released into the atmosphere
- When renovating your house, make sure that old insulation foams containing ODS are disposed of as environmentally hazardous waste
- Inform yourself about ozone depletion through further reading, and suggest activities at your children’s school to increase awareness.