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I The Ozone Layer The Earths atmosphere is divided into several layers The lowest region the troposphere extends from the Earths surface up to about 10 kilometers km in altitude The next layer the stratosphere continues from 10 km to about 50 km Most atmospheric ozone is concentrated in a layer in the stratosphere about 15-30 kilometers above the Earths surface Ozone is a molecule containing three oxygen atoms It is blue in color and has a strong odor Normal oxygen which we breathe has two oxygen atoms and is colorless and odorless Ozone is much less common than normal oxygen Out of each 10 million air molecules about 2 million are normal oxygen but only 3 are ozone However even the small amount of ozone plays a key role in the atmosphere The ozone layer absorbs a portion of the radiation from the sun preventing it from reaching the planets surface Most importantly it absorbs the portion of ultraviolet light called UVB UVB has been linked to many harmful effects including various types of skin cancer cataracts and harm to some crops certain materials and some forms of marine life At any given time ozone molecules are constantly formed and destroyed in the stratosphere The total amount however remains relatively stable While ozone concentrations vary naturally with sunspots the seasons and latitude these processes are well understood and predictable Each natural reduction in ozone levels has been followed by a recovery Recently however convincing scientific evidence has shown that the ozone shield is being depleted well beyond changes due to natural processes II Ozone Depletion For over 50 years chlorofluorocarbons or CFCs were thought of as miracle substances They are stable nonflammable low in toxicity and inexpensive to produce Over time CFCs found uses as refrigerants solvents foam blowing agents and in other smaller applications Other chlorine-containing compounds include methyl chloroform a solvent and carbon tetrachloride an industrial chemical Halons extremely effective
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