5 surprising ways you’re damaging the ozone layer
By Rachel England Friday 16 September 2016
Around 20-30 years ago the ozone layer was a seriously hot topic (pardon the pun). While scientists started studying the ozone layer in the 1970s, it wasn’t until 1984 that they discovered it also boasted a massive hole, which was seriously bad news for the planet – and everyone on it.
What is the ozone layer?
The ozone layer is less of a physical ‘layer’ and more a highly-concentrated atmospheric area of a form of oxygen called ozone, which plays an important role in absorbing ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Too much ultraviolet radiation can lead to skin cancer, cataract damage and harm to plants and animals, which we of course rely on for our own survival.
Researchers discovered that chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) – which were found in aerosols, solvents, packaging and appliances – were largely to blame for ozone depletion. At its peak companies were producing a million tonnes of CFCs every year, so along came the Montreal Protocol, signed in 1987, which heralded the global phase-out of these chemicals, and 16 September was designated International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer – a day designed to raise awareness of the issue.
And it’s worked! Research this year has found that the ozone layer has gradually begun to repair itself, and could even be back to 1980 levels by 2040 – providing, of course, that we keep up the good work (you can even follow its progress on NASA’s website). CFCs have largely been banned around the world, but there are still ways you could be harming the ozone layer without realising it. Are you guilty of any of these ozone-damaging actions?
You use your old car’s air conditioner
If your car was manufactured before 1995 and has an air-conditioner, chances are its system contains CFCs. Make sure you have it serviced by a qualified technician so the CFC is recaptured and recycled properly. If you don’t use the air-conditioner (and let’s be honest, there’s not a lot of demand for one in the UK!), or you’re going to have the vehicle scrapped, be sure to have a qualified mechanic dispose of the CFC for you.
Your haven’t upgraded your fridge-freezer
CFCs were the norm in pre-1995 fridges and freezers, so if yours is still churning along you should consider replacing it. Not only will this eliminate hazards to the ozone layer, but newer models are considerably more energy-efficient, so you’ll save money on your energy bills, too. Contact your local council for advice on the best way to dispose of your old model.
You have an old fire extinguisher
Keeping a fire extinguisher in your home is a very sensible idea, but check its active ingredients. ‘Halon’ or ‘halogenated hydrocarbon’ is a harmful ozone-depleting chemical often found in older models. Find a hazardous waste centre where you can recycle it, or call your local fire station for advice on the best way to dispose of it, and replace it with a newer halon-free extinguisher instead.
You buy cheap wood
Making your own furniture must be better than buying it from stores that use manufacturers in developing countries all over the globe, right? Well, yes. But whether you’re a hardcore DIY enthusiast or are just after a bit of wood for the garden, be sure to check the way it was treated before you buy lumber or plywood. Generally speaking, a stamp showing ‘HT’ indicates the wood has been heat-treated, while ‘MB’ means the wood has been treated with methyl bromide, a chemical that has been found to be more toxic to the ozone layer than CFCs.
You eat a lot of cheese
It’s no secret that eating less meat is good for the environment. Raising livestock puts strain on land and resources, not to mention the fact that it creates much more greenhouse gas emissions than the world’s 1.2 billion cars, thus significantly contributing to climate change. It’s a lesser known fact that nitrous oxide , a byproduct of manure decomposition, also plays a role in ozone depletion, and that livestock farming is responsible for 65% of all human-related nitrous oxide emissions. So lowering your meat consumption is a great first step - but don’t forget that cheese and other dairy products are animal products as well!
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