There are many causes of ozone layer depletion, all of them manmade compounds that enter the atmosphere. They are chloroflurocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), methyl bromide, halons, methyl chloroform and carbon tetrachloride. Once they have been released into the atmosphere, they remain there for as long as 200 years.

Although there are numerous causes of ozone layer depletion, chloroflurocarbons have been identified as being the most damaging. These gases are used in many different industries in various ways. One example is the refrigerant gas used to run refrigeration and air-conditioning systems and heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. Chloroflurocarbons are also used in firefighting equipment, aerosols, the production of installed foam and anesthetics.

Years of research have determined that chloroflurocarbons top the list of causes of ozone layer depletion because they are not destroyed by rain or broken down in the lower atmosphere. Once they reach the stratosphere, the sun’s ultraviolet rays break down the compound, thus releasing chlorine. This resulting chlorine is what damages the ozone in a repetitive process. Unfortunately, the length of time chemicals cause destruction of the ozone depends upon the refrigerant being broken down, i.e. chlorine last for 2 years and other chemicals for much longer.

The main causes of ozone layer depletion are the gases fluorine, chlorine and bromine, which are found in manmade halocarbons. Chlorine and bromine, in particular, have been identified as the major links to ozone depletion. Chlorine atoms result from chloroflurocarbons molecule, while bromine atoms result from halons. While chloroflurocarbons and halons are safe to use and cause no harm to the environment, they cause substantial damage to the stratosphere.

Fundamentally, the causes of ozone destruction comes from the breakdown of refrigerant gas into many other harmful free radicals. Currently, hydroxyl and nitric oxide occur in the stratosphere naturally. As with much environmental damage, one can trace it back to the man made substances. Chlorine and bromine are great examples of human activity that continues to result in ozone destruction.

The causes of ozone layer depletion trigger damage to the earth from the resulting high levels of ultraviolet rays or radiation exposure. Skin cancer will increase, the immune system in humans and animals will be weakened, plants will be damaged and plankton in oceans will be reduced. The entire balance of the earth’s life system will be impacted.

Once various compounds were identified as causes of ozone layer depletion, protocols were put into place to decrease their usage. They include the U.S. Clean Air Act and the Montreal Protocols. Their sole purpose is to reduce or phase-out substances that damage the ozone layer. Even with these efforts, it would take another century before these damaging substances totally disappear from the stratosphere. If the emissions of harmful refrigerant gases stops, the ozone layer has the ability to heal itself after a number of years. The length it takes to recuperate depends upon the type of refrigerant.

Damage to the stratospheric ozone was first identified in 1974. If the causes of ozone layer depletion are not addressed, the end result would be global warming. As the temperature of the earth rises, weather events, like more droughts and stronger hurricanes, would occur and ice caps and glaciers would melt. As the ozone layer continues to wear down, the earth would be in direct contact with the sun’s heat and its damaging ultraviolet rays.

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