Ozone: All There Is Between You And UV

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The discovery of a hole in the ozone layer three decades ago was one of the most significant environmental achievements of modern times. A naturally occurring belt of ozone gas found between 15km to 30km above the Earth, the fragile shield absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation.

The ozone layer acts as a shield, protecting the Earth from harmful portions of the Sun which in turn helps preserve all human life; the plants, beaches, animals and us.

From the discovery of the hole in the ozone, the implementation of the Montreal Protocol in the late 1980s began to phase out the use of ozone-depleting substances – the manmade chemicals to blame for the diminishing levels of ozone in the upper atmosphere. Good news followed earlier in 2015, when a UN study found the ozone layer had begun to show early signs of thickening and the Antarctic hole had stopped growing.

Despite this, our ozone is still fragile and it needs a collective effort to ensure that we do everything we can to curb the factors contributing to its depletion.

Many of these ozone layer depleting products are used in our households on a daily basis. These include aerosol cans, foams, and many industrial materials used in building and construction. Here is a list of ozone depleting substances for you to look at.

The phaseout of controlled uses of ozone depleting substances and the related reductions have not only helped protect the ozone layer for this and future generations, but have also contributed significantly to global efforts to address climate change; furthermore, it has protected human health and ecosystems by limiting the harmful ultraviolet radiation from reaching the earth.

In 1994, the UN General Assembly proclaimed 16 September the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, commemorating the date of the signing, in 1987, of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer (resolution 49/114).

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer, an important milestone in the protection of the ozone layer. The theme for the celebration of the anniversary and this year’s International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer to be marked on 16 September is, “30 years of healing the ozone together.” The theme is supported by the slogan, “Ozone: All there is between you and UV.”

Secretary-General’s Message for 2015:

Not so long ago, humanity stood on the brink of a self-inflicted catastrophe. Our use of ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) had torn a hole in the ozone layer that protects us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet radiation.

But we tackled this challenge. Thirty years ago, the international community signed the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer. Under its Montreal Protocol, the world united to slash the production and consumption of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances.

Together, we have succeeded in putting the stratospheric ozone layer on the road to recovery by the middle of this century. As a result, up to 2 million cases of skin cancer may be prevented each year, along with even more avoided cases of eye cataracts.

As we look forward to the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the effort by governments later this year in Paris to forge a new, collective path forward on climate change, the Montreal Protocol’s success should inspire us.  It shows what we are capable of when nations act together on a global challenge.

But the work of the Montreal Protocol is not yet done. Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) have been used as replacements for many ozone-depleting substances. While they do not deplete the ozone layer, they are extremely potent greenhouse gases and will contribute a great deal of warming to our already overheated planet in the coming decades unless we act now.

Many countries are now considering using the Montreal Protocol regime to phase down HFCs.  A political commitment to managing HFCs under the Montreal Protocol could be one of the biggest climate change wins in the lead-up to the Paris climate conference. It will also be another strong victory for multilateral efforts to safeguard our environment. On this International Day, let us ensure that we protect our climate the way we have preserved the ozone layer.

Ban Ki-moon

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Take Action to Protect the Ozone Layer

Individually

Be ozone-friendly – Purchase products that are labeled “ozone friendly” or “CFC free”. If not examine product labels to ensure that they do not contain ozone depleting substances such as CFCs or halons, HCFCs

Dispose of old refrigerators and appliances properly. CFC and HCFC refrigerants should be removed from an appliance before it is discarded.

Return portable halon fire extinguishers to your fire protection authority for recycling and replace it with a new fire extinguishers that does not contain halon.

Don’t use methyl bromide. If you use methyl bromide for soil fumigation, consider switching to effective and safe alternatives that are currently being used in many countries to replace this ozone damaging pesticide. Consider options such as integrated pest management that do not rely on costly chemical inputs.

Promote good Refrigerant and AC practices. Ensure that the refrigerant you recover from air conditioners, refrigerators or freezer during servicing is not “vented” or released to the atmosphere. Regularly check and fix leaks before they become a problem. Hire/employ technicians who are certified in good Refrigerant practices, Recovery and Recycling. Certified Technicians in St. Lucia have a Government issued ID card. Ask for this card before you hire.

Ensure that your vehicle’s ac system is regularly checked for leaks. Repairing leaky systems will prevent the release of a considerable amount of ODS or other Refrigerants into the atmosphere. If your vehicle still uses and ODS ask about converting your car to a substitute refrigerant.

Educate yourself. Read and learn more about the effects of ozone depletion on people, animals and the environment, your national strategy and policies to implement the Montreal Protocol, and what the phase out of ozone depleting substances means to your country. Get in touch with your country’s National Ozone Unit (NOU) and learn how you can get involved on an individual level.

As a Business

Be ozone-friendly – Purchase or produce products that are labeled “ozone friendly” or “CFC free” for resale. Promote/advertise the use of ozone-friendly products. Ask your suppliers to provide you with information on new substance or processes or find out about other sources.

Develop a plan for replacing non ozone-friendly products and appliances with cost-effective alternatives. Replace ozone depleting substances used on your premises and in your manufacturing processes. Become an environmental leader in the world of business.

Return portable halon fire extinguishers to your fire protection authority for recycling and replace it with a new fire extinguishers that does not contain halon.

Educate your employees. Learn about the national phase-out strategy through you national ozone unit and how you could help them meet their target.

As a community

Spread the word. Inform families, neighbors and friends in the community about the need to protect the ozone layer and help them get involved. Work with non-governmental organizations to help start information campaigns and technical assistance projects to phase out ozone depleting substances in your city, town or village.

Support good practices. Start a refrigerant recovery and recycling programme in your area with  the support of the National Ozone Unit and qualified trainers.

Teach the children about the importance of protecting the environment and ,in particular, the ozone layer. Teach them about the damaging impact of ozone depleting substances on the atmosphere, health impacts and what steps are being taken internationally and nationally to solve this problem. Encourage your students to spread the message to their families. Invite the National Ozone unit to make presentations at the community school.

Be an ozone-friendly community.  Encourage persons to dispose of their old equipment in an orderly manner. Ensure than everyone knows about bulky waste collection days.

For more information on Ozone Day, visit http://www.un.org/en/events/ozoneday/

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