The Ozone Layer - What Is Actually Happening?

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Air: Something We All Share

Joshua denDulk

The Ozone Layer

What is actually happening?

What comes to mind when you think of the ozone layer? The average person generally thinks of something up in the sky that stops us getting too much sunburn, and that is really all the ozone layer does. However, many scientists today believe that the ozone layer is slowly depleting over time, and this is causing a greater risk to our health, leaving us vulnerable to the sun’s harmful UV rays. This article attempts to evaluate these views, particularly that of the reader’s letter to the editor, stating his view on the ozone layer – “The ozone layer is like the sunscreen for the Earth. It is very important that we legislate to protect the ozone layer by reducing the use of fossil fuels, banning CFCs and cutting down on processes which produce methane.” Should we be worried about this? Let’s find out.

Ozone is found naturally in what is called the ozone layer which is in the stratosphere. Ozone is formed when a sun’s destructive ultraviolent photon, whose wavelength is shorter than 240 nm, hits and splits an oxygen molecule (O2) into two oxygen atoms. These oxygen atoms, being radicals, quickly bond to a single oxygen molecule, becoming ozone (O3). O + O2 → O3. This reaction is also reversible. O3 → O + O2. Ozone is hit by ultraviolent photons whose wavelength is from around 200 to 310 nm. This causes the ozone to split into one oxygen molecule and ne oxygen atom. The oxygen atom quickly joins up with a different oxygen molecule again to form ozone, while the oxygen molecule floats around until it is joined by a different oxygen radical, and becomes a ozone molecule again. This is a naturally occurring cycle, and effectively stops the sun’s ultraviolent rays reaching the earth.

Ozone reacts with many different free radical catalysts, the most prominent of which is Chlorine (Cl). Chlorine...
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