Posted on 29/09/2023
September 16 is celebrated as International Ozone Day. On this day we celebrate the world's achievements in understanding the importance of the ozone layer for life and the actions taken to preserve it. This date was set by the UN to commemorate the signing of the Montreal Protocol against materials that could deplete the ozone layer in 1987.
What is ozone?
Ozone or trioxygen is an inorganic molecule with the chemical formula O3. The form of ozone is a pale blue gas with a distinctive sharp odor like the smell of disinfectant. Ozone is formed when light and heat from the sun cause a chemical reaction between nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons. This reaction can occur near the ground surface and at high levels in the stratosphere.
Ozone formed near the ground surface has harmful effects on human health and the environment. Ozone at ground level is caused by emissions from motor vehicles and industrial processes as well as ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight. Ozone is mostly formed in urban areas, but can be carried by the wind to suburban areas. When the ozone concentration near ground level is high, those who have asthma or other respiratory problems will usually experience shortness of breath and coughing.
Ozone located at the height of the stratosphere is known as the ozone layer, which is at an altitude of 15-35 km from the earth's surface. The stratosphere itself is located at an altitude of 12-60 km and is the second layer of the Earth's atmosphere. The thickness of the ozone layer varies, but in general the ozone layer is thinner at the equator and thicker towards the poles.
The composition of ozone in our atmosphere compared to air molecules is only three to ten million, but its role is very important. The ozone layer absorbs most (97-99%) of the UV radiation from the sun which is harmful to living things on the earth's surface. If this radiation reaches the earth's surface, it can cause burns, skin cancer and blindness in humans.
Depletion of the ozone layer
The ozone layer in the stratosphere can experience thinning. A number of gases are known to damage the ozone layer which are man-made manufactured chemicals. These gases include methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, carbon tetrachloride, halons, chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs).
This phenomenon of ozone layer thinning began to be realized around the late 1970s. Experts have found that the use of certain gases in aerosols and coolers such as air conditioners and refrigerators can cause "holes" in the ozone layer which can cause skin cancer, crop failure and ecosystem damage. Although the term commonly used is ozone hole, it refers to the reduction in ozone levels in the ozone layer in a certain area.
The world's response to this condition is one voice. The governments of various countries in the world have agreed to do something to overcome the ozone layer depletion crisis. On March 22, 1985, 28 countries signed the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer. This event then triggered the approval of the Montreal Protocol on September 16 1987 concerning Substances That Can Deplete the Ozone Layer. This date was later designated in 1994 as International Ozone Day by the United Nations (UN).
Implementation of the Montreal Protocol includes, among other things, prohibiting the use of gases that can damage the ozone layer in the manufacturing industry. The Montreal Protocol contains a timeline containing the stages in reducing and then eliminating the use of these gases. The UN claims that the Montreal Protocol has helped slow global warming. If gases that can damage the ozone layer are not banned, then by the end of the century the earth's temperature will increase by 2.5°C, which is potentially catastrophic.
The ozone layer around the equator tends to be thinner than other areas. Why does it happen? The equatorial area is the location that receives the highest UV radiation so that the most ozone is produced in that area. Large-scale air circulation will slowly carry ozone towards the poles. The presence of gases that can damage the ozone layer will make the ozone layer in tropical areas more vulnerable to depletion.
The Toraja Sulotco coffee plantation is located in the Rantekarua mountains close to the equator. With the depletion of the ozone layer, UV radiation can cause a decrease in crop yields. This can be caused by damage to Toraja coffee plants, starting from the cellular level to the plant as a whole. UV radiation can trigger plant defense mechanisms so that plant energy allocation will be directed to improving this. This can cause a decrease in the quantity and quality of Toraja coffee fruit.
What role can we take in reducing the depletion of the ozone layer?
One of the things we can do to support efforts to protect the ozone layer is to avoid consuming gases that can damage the ozone layer. One of these dangerous gases is CFC. CFCs are commonly used in aerosol products. You can check the information on perfume products, deodorants, mosquito spray, and other products that use pressurized cans. Don't use AC, refrigerator and cooler products manufactured before 1995 because products from that era used CFCs to function. Another thing we can do is reduce the use of motorized vehicles. The nitrous oxide content in motor vehicle exhaust gas has the potential to damage the ozone layer.