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Earth's Atmosphere and the Ozone Layer

            The ozone layer is a layer of the second layer of Earth's atmosphere, the stratosphere (Dunn, 1993). This layer is essential to protecting organisms on Earth from the dangerous effects of the Sun's rays. It does this by absorbing a type of radiation called ultraviolet radiation, UV light for short, hitting the Earth from the Sun. Unfortunately, scientists have recently concluded that the Ozone hole over Antarctica is three times the size of the United States and still growing (Shah, 2002). Because of ozone depletion, not only is our environment and society changing but also our economy.
             The ozone hole, which actually isn't a hole but a very thin layer of ozone gas over Antarctica, is caused by chlorofluorocarbons, also known as CFCs. Chlorofluorocarbons are organic compounds containing carbon, chlorine and fluorine, that are produced as volatile derivatives of methane and ethane (Welch, n.d.). Being a safe alternative to toxic substances such as ammonia has increased their usage drastically over time. This compound is damaging to the ozone layer when the sun's ultraviolet rays break it down, releasing chlorine. The chlorine atoms are capable of destroying extremely large amounts of ozone, such as the patch over Antarctica. Antarctica's ozone hole therefore can no longer "heal" properly or absorb enough of the sun's harmful rays, therefore increasing the dangers of genetically harmful ultraviolet radiation. The increase in solar radiation is affecting terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles, therefore altering greenhouse gas sources and sinks. This exposure to solar radiation has also decreased the survival rates of phytoplankton, organisms that form the foundations of aquatic food webs, in the marginal ice zone by 6-12% (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 2015). .
             Not only is this crisis affecting our environment but it is affecting the human species. Although small amounts of UV are beneficial to humans and essential to produce vitamin D, the increased radiation promotes eye disease and blindness.

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