Ozone for life: 35 years of Ozone Layer protection
Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive gas whose molecules are comprised of three oxygen atoms. The ozone layer is a fragile shield of gas that protects the Earth from the harmful portion of the rays of the sun, thus helping preserve life on the planet. Atmospheric ozone absorbs ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, particularly harmful UVB-type rays. Exposure to UVB radiation is linked with increased risk of skin cancer and cataracts, as well as damage to plants and marine ecosystems.
World Ozone Day, held on September 16, celebrates a collective decisions and action to preserve the Ozone layer. In this year of the COVID-19 pandemic that has brought such social and economic hardship, the ozone treaties message of working together in harmony and for the collective good is more important than ever. The slogan of the day, Ozone for life, reminds us that not only is Ozone crucial for life on Earth, but that we must continue to protect the Ozone Layer for future generations. When scientists working in the late 1970s discovered that humanity was creating a hole in this protective shield, they raised the alarm. The hole caused by Ozone- Depleting gases used in aerosols and cooling, such as refrigerators and air- conditioners was threatening to increase cases of skin cancer and cataracts, and damage plants, crops, and ecosystems. A number of commonly used chemicals have been found to be extremely damaging to the ozone layer. Halocarbons are chemicals in which one or more carbon atoms are linked to one or more halogen atoms (fluorine, chlorine, bromine or iodine). Halocarbons containing bromine usually have much higher ozone-depleting potential (ODP) than those containing chlorine. The man made chemicals that have provided most of the chlorine and bromine for ozone depletion are methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride and families of chemicals known as halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). For example one atom of chlorine can destroy more than 100,000 ozone molecules, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, eradicating ozone much more quickly than it can be replaced.
Thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the ozone layer is healing and expected to return to pre-1980 values by mid-century. In support of the Protocol, the Kigali Amendment, which came into force in 2019, will work towards reducing hydro fluorocarbon (HFCs), greenhouse gases with powerful climate warming potential and damaging to the environment (www.un.org>documents)
There are a few exceptions for essential uses where no acceptable substitutes have been found, for example, in metered dose inhalers (MDI) commonly used to treat asthma and other respiratory problems or halon fire-suppression systems used in submarines and aircraft. We take encouragement from how we have worked together to preserve the ozone
layer and apply the same will to healing the planet and forging a brighter and more equitable future for all humanity.
On this years International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer STEMi Makers Africa in partnership with IFAMTech Bamenda, Cameroon under the department of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences celebrated this day by organizing two activities. A seminar to sensitize its students on the importance of the Ozone layer ( by Mr Sama Cyril) and went ahead to planning of ornamental trees like Callistemon and Bohemia on campus.