Question
Thu March 07, 2013 By:

how does ozone layer protect us from harmful effects of the environment?

Expert Reply
Fri March 08, 2013

Ozone layer depletion increases the amount of ultraviolet radiation and the risk of health effects for all life on earth.

  • Increased levels of UV radiation have been linked to skin cancer, cataracts and weakened immune systems in humans.
  • In nature, increased UV radiation is responsible for crop failures and disruption of the ocean's food chain. 
  • Physiological and developmental processes of plants are affected by UVB radiation, even by the amount of UVB in present-day sunlight.
  • Solar UVB radiation has been found to cause damage to early developmental stages of fish, shrimp, crab, amphibians and other animals. The most severe effects are decreased reproductive capacity and impaired larval development.
  • Increases in solar UV radiation could affect terrestrial and aquatic biogeochemical cycles, thus altering both sources and sinks of greenhouse and chemically-important trace gases.
  • Synthetic polymers, naturally occurring biopolymers, as well as some other materials of commercial interest are adversely affected by solar UV radiation.
 
The layer of ozone in our upper atmosphere blocks ultraviolet radiation that would otherwise be harmful to plants, animals and humans. The reaction between ozone and UV radiation blocks most of the radiation from reaching the surface of the Earth. Without ozone protection, UV levels would increase dramatically at the Earth's surface.
As ozone molecules float through the atmosphere, they are exposed to strong ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. When a UV ray impacts an ozone molecule, the ozone absorbs the ray and converts its energy into heat. The reaction causes the ozone molecule to breakdown into a single oxygen atom and a separate pair of oxygen molecules. In a short space of time, the oxygen pair combines with another single oxygen molecule to form a new three-oxygen-atom ozone molecule.
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