Ozone Know Zone

by Daniel Brouse, Sidd Mukherjee and the Membrane Domain

Q: What can I do to help with the ozone problem?

A: There are many actions you can take. First, it helps to understand the "double wammy" ozone problem.

  1. Stratospheric ozone depletion
  2. Tropospheric ozone creation

"Stratospheric ozone depletion is a concern because the ozone layer in the stratosphere keeps 95-99% of the suns ultraviolet radiation from striking the earth." -- NASA

Tropospheric ozone is low level ozone caused by humans. Tropospheric ozone is "bad ozone" that causes health problems in humans, plants to die and other destructive results.

"Tropospheric ozone is formed by the interaction of sunlight, particularly ultraviolet light, with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides, which are emitted by automobiles, gasoline vapors, fossil fuel power plants, refineries, and certain other industries." -- National Center for Atmospheric Research

The double wammy is that as humans cause the depletion of the stratospheric ozone we accelerate the creation of tropospheric ozone. Therefore, anything we can do to reduce stratospheric ozone depletion will slow the creation of tropospheric ozone, and anything we can do to reduce the pollutants that cause low level ozone will slow the creation of troposhperic ozone.

You could think of it as having created a giant magnifying glass above the earth, as well as, lots of little explosive charges (potential reactions) near the Earth's surface. On hot, sunny days there are lots of "bangs." By reducing the power of the magnifying glass or reducing the amount of potential reactions, we could reduce the amount of bad ozone (tropospheric) being created.

Q: What can be done to help create, or slow the depletion of, stratospheric ozone?
This is the harder part of the problem. Creating stratospheric ozone is a slow process. Also, the causes of stratospheric ozone depletion are severe and long lasting. (see Antarctic Ozone Hole Persists, At Least for a While) "It is estimated that one Chlorine atom can convert 100,000 molecules of Ozone into Oxygen before that chlorine becomes part of a less reactive compound." ChloroFluorocarbons (CFC's) are man-made and are thought to be the main cause of stratospheric ozone depletion. In the 1970's the United States and sevearl other countries banned the use of CFC's in aerosol-sprays. Since 1987, the United Nations have been trying to phase out the usage of ChloroFluorocarbons in air conditioning and refrigeration units, too. CFC's are organic compounds composed of carbon, fluorine, chlorine, and hydrogen. CFC's are manufactured under the trademarked name Freon (a DuPont trademark.)

"Despite considerable action to protect the ozone layer, there is no clear evidence of a recovery. Climate change may now be contributing to ozone depletion." -- Canada's Clean Air On-line

Q: What can be done to slow the creation of tropospheric ozone?
Tropospheric ozone is highly volatile and does not last long. Therefore, the less gasoline vapors, fossil fuel power plants and similar pollution, then the quicker we can help solve the tropospheric ozone problem.

The solution to both the stratospheric and tropospheric ozone problems leads to same conclusion -- slow human induced climate change. Following are some specific things we can do.

Please think of how much this will help plants and animals. As for humans, stratospheric ozone depletion results in skin cancer, eye damage and other harmful health issues caused by UV rays. Tropospheric ozone creation results in lung damage, asthma and other impacts that are harmful to our health.

Reference: Ozone Pollution Police

Death By Ozone
More About Ozone
The Tree Study
The Climate Change Study