The Ozone Layer Is Being Depleted Worldwide, Not Just In The Polar Regions, And Skin Cancer Rates Are Increasing
Way up in the Earth’s stratosphere, 10-20 miles above the ground, is a layer of the air where ozone concentrations are an order of magnitude higher than the rest of the atmosphere. This is known as the ozone layer, and it is a critical protective shield which makes life on Earth possible.
The ozone layer absorbs high energy UV radiation from the sun, which would otherwise carpet bomb the surface of the planet with dangerous radiation. High energy radiation from the sun is like any other dangerous radiation, it can be thought of as tiny but fast moving bullets that can damage cells and cause DNA and RNA mutations that lead to cancer. In the past, the ozone layer naturally stopped most of this UV radiation.
However, due to manmade gases which eat up ozone, the ozone layer is being depleted worldwide. Most people may have heard of the ozone hole, which is a gigantic hole in the ozone layer that opens up over the polar regions during the springtime. The primary cause of the ozone hole is chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which used to be a common ingredient in every air conditioning system, and they release halogen atoms (chlorine and bromine based molecules) which then attack ozone much faster than the ozone is naturally replaced.
The nations of the world came together to ban CFCs via the Montreal Protocol, and over the years the ozone holes over the polar regions have grown at a slower rate, and some years have even shrunk. This has caused the common mainstream perception to be that the ozone hole is a solved issue.
Unfortunately, ozone over the mid-latitudes and sub-tropics, such as over the United States and most of the rest of the populated world, is decreasing as well. I.e. the ozone holes over the polar regions are not the only nor the biggest problem with the ozone layer.
Actual measurements of the ozone layer are taken by NASA, and provided here in easy to view movie format. It is apparent that the ozone is dangerously weak in the southern United States and sub-tropics in general for most of the year, and holes in the ozone sporadically open up anywhere in the mid-latitudes. Scientists have found that thunderstorms can quickly transport ozone destroying molecules into the stratosphere over the United States, causing the same chemical reactions that destroy ozone in the polar regions, leading to temporary ozone holes.
The reason that ozone layer destruction is still happening despite the Montreal Protocol is that CFCs have a very long half life, and have persisted in the atmosphere with barely any decline. This may suggest as well that some nations and corporations are still using CFCs. Also, to replace CFCs, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) were developed and are now widely used. They still destroy the ozone like CFCs, but have shorter half lives of around 10-15 years instead of 100 years.
However, HFCs and HCFCs are still incredibly damaging to the ozone, with a 10-20 year half life still being way too long for an ozone destroying molecule to float around in the stratosphere. HFCs and HCFCs are scheduled to be phased out by 2030-2040. This seems like a cop out though, since that is no time soon, and in the meantime HFCs and HCFCs are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere.
Additionally, Nitrous Oxide (N2O) concentrations are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere, and it has been found that N2O destroys ozone as well. In-fact, N2O is now the top ozone depleting molecule in the atmosphere, and there is probably no way to ban it since it is essential for agricultural and industrial activities.
Ultimately, it seems the Montreal Protocol has not succeeded, and the ozone layer could end up completely dissolving over the coming decades. The animation below shows how the ozone layer would have progressed since 1974 if CFCs were not banned. However, now that HFCs, HCFCs, and N2O are rapidly increasing in the atmosphere, the same time line may happen except with different dates.
Indeed, ozone layer concentrations over the subtropics and mid-latitudes seem to be decreasing right on schedule, and this chilling animation shows that the ozone layer may only be decades away from a complete worldwide collapse.
God forbid, if that were to happen, it would cause widespread cancer and threaten the existence of the entire biosphere. A 1% decrease in the ozone layer corresponds to a 3% increase in skin cancer rates, and undoubtedly multiple percentages of the ozone layer have already been lost over populated areas. Indeed, the Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong has found that the skin cancer rate per 100,000 people has been steadily rising.
The statistics are chilling, 1 in 5 Americans develops skin cancer by the age of 70, 9,500 people in the United States are diagnosed with skin cancer every day, and two people die every hour from skin cancer, with only 5 sunburns in a lifetime doubling the risk of melanoma. And these are the statistics before any further degradation of the ozone layer.
The Cancer Herald believes that the depletion of the ozone layer is a deadly serious issue that is not being discussed enough, mostly due to the mainstream focusing on the ozone holes rather than the depletion of ozone everywhere else in the world. The nations and corporations of the world need to come together to issue a more comprehensive ban on all gases that deplete the ozone layer, rather than individually banning certain gases. Future articles will discuss this issue further, as well as provide tips on how to protect yourself from high energy solar radiation.