What Are the Effects of Ozone Depletion?

Hopefully, if we learn what are the effects of ozone depletion, we will finally do something to diminish the effects of climate change. Ozone layer depletion indicates less protection from the dangerous UVB radiation at the surface of our planet. Specialists indicate that the amount of UVB radiation in the Antarctic can even double during the annual ozone hole.

What are the effects of ozone depletion?

The effects of ozone depletion on people

EPA relies on the Atmospheric and Health Effects Framework model to discover the health benefits of greater ozone layer protection via the Montreal Protocol. Since ozone layer depletion allows greater amounts of UVB radiation to penetrate through our atmosphere, then we are clearly more exposed to it. Previous epidemiological and laboratory studies indicate that UVB is the factor which causes non-melanoma skin cancer. Therefore, it is crucial in the development of malignant melanoma.

Massive exposure to UVB radiation represents a great threat for people skin, increasing the skin cancer risk not only for fair-skinned people but for all skin types. There are three types of skin cancer, namely malignant melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma. Squamous and basal cell carcinoma tend to progress very quickly, but they do not spread in the body. Hence, they are rarely deadly. The most serious form of skin cancer is melanoma. Luckily, this is least common one. Specialists indicate that malignant melanoma is strongly related to UV radiation exposure.

Furthermore, UVB radiation is also known to contribute to the development of cataracts, affecting the eyes’ lens. Sunlight contains UVB radiation, and hence, we need to protect our eyes and skin every time we go out in the sun. Besides the lens, UVB radiation can also damage the membrane covering the eye and the cornea. Overexposure to UVB light can lead to snow blindness. Generally, this may occur in some parts of the world where the UVB exposure is extremely high.

The effects of ozone depletion on the environment

This layer of ozone that covers our planet like a blanket is slowly thinning due to the greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. The ozone layer in the stratosphere occurs naturally, and it encircles the planet. Specialists indicate that it is situated in the lower part of the atmosphere, at 15-30 kilometers above planet Earth.

The ozone layer acts as a shield, and it is continuously generated and then broken down due to numerous chemical reactions. Hence, the thickness of the ozone layer can vary seasonally and geographically. When the ozone layer becomes thinner than the UVB radiation can harm the environment and all natural ecosystems.

The main cause of ozone depletion is chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Many products like insulating foams, spray aerosols, soaps and solvents feature chlorofluorocarbons. When these substances accumulate in the atmosphere, they may reach the stratosphere due to wind action. Hence, this is how they damage the ozone layer. Besides chlorofluorocarbons, there are plenty of other substances which contribute to ozone layer destruction like Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS), Nitrogen, Hydrogen, and Chlorine.

Planet Earth seen from space

The depletion of the ozone layer affects the environment, plants, animals and also human health.

The effects of ozone depletion on plants and animals

Massive amounts of UVB radiation that penetrate our atmosphere do not only affect humans, but also animals and plants. Researchers indicate that many of the effects of ozone depletion on human health tend to apply for animals, too. Numerous species of animals which have eyes and skin as sensitive as we have. Some of them have fur to protect them from potential sunburn or higher exposure to UVB radiation.

Many species of animals may develop skin cancers in parts of the skin where the hair is scarce. Hence, this is available for dogs, cats, sheep, goats, and cows. Specialists revealed that most of the skin cancer cases were squamous cell carcinomas. Furthermore, when it comes to eye damage, animals can also experience eye cancers. This type of diseases is frequent in dogs, cats, swine, sheep, and horses. Strong UVB radiation can be very dangerous.

If we were to look at plants, we would see that high UVB radiation also affects them. Experts tested many crops, and they have identified that some of them are vulnerable to powerful UVB radiation. Hence, this could cause a reduction in yield. Nevertheless, there are crops which are tolerant when it comes to UVB radiation, and researchers try to genetically engineer these strains.

If the ozone depletion problem becomes more severe, then many species of plants will not be able to adapt, and most likely they will be on the verge of extinction. Hence, many species of animals that feed on those plant will suffer, and the disappearance of some plant species will affect numerous ecosystems.

Dangerous UVB radiation affect ecosystems

Nevertheless, many plant species have some sort of shielding mechanisms that protect them from radiation. In this way, only a small amount of the UVB radiation will penetrate their tissue. Other plants are really skillful when it comes to protecting themselves. They are able to grow higher amounts of pigment that absorbs UVB radiation to protect their structure.

Specialists have proved that even within a single species, plants tend to have different ways of adapting to UVB exposure, using different methods to cope with the powerful radiations. Nevertheless, scientists try to raise awareness indicating that if ozone layer depletion reaches 10%, then numerous species of plants will suffer.

Ultraviolet light may also determine changes in plants’ molecules. Hence, UV light can alter the cells responsible for controlling growth regulation. This could lead to different flowering periods, smaller plants and impaired pollination cycle. UV radiations seem to affect more plant species like squash, lettuce, cabbage, soybean, and peas.

Summing up

Learning about the effects of ozone layer depletion should make us want to protect this planet even more, by diminishing the amount of air pollution. All the toxic gases in the atmosphere slowly migrate into the stratosphere and damage the ozone layer. Hence, UVB radiation affects the environment, animals, plants and even humans. We should start protecting our planet to be able to protect our health.

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William E. Eubanks

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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