Journalist Impact of CFC
 
The ozone layer acts as an effective shield against the harmful Ultra-Violet (UV) radiation of the sun and prevents it from reaching the earth’s surface. Consequently, when the ozone layer gets damaged, more of the harmful UV radiation reaches the earth. This increase in the amount of UV radiation is very dangerous and has an adverse impact on human, animal and plant life, synthetic and natural materials, and weather patterns. Ozone depletion thus has serious implications for life as we know it on the planet.

A. Human life
Increased exposure to UV rays can cause the following:
  • Increase in the incidence of sunburn, premature aging of skin as well as skin cancers.
  • Increase in eye diseases, especially cataracts, leading to blindness. It is estimated that a 10% thinning of the ozone layer will cause two million new cases of cataract every year.
  • Weakening of the human immune system, leading to infectious diseases.
B. Agriculture
This sector is particularly vulnerable to increased UV radiations. It is estimated that food production could be reduced by 10% for every 1% increase in UV-B radiation.
  • Major crops such as rice, wheat, corn and soya bean exhibit reduced growth and flowering when exposed to excess UV radiation.
  • Many vegetable species are unable to withstand higher concentrations of UV radiation.
  • A small depletion in the stratospheric ozone layer, amounting to even 10%, could have a severe impact on local ecosystems.
  • Research has revealed that UV radiation also affects plant growth in seedlings adversely.

C. Animal life
Prolonged exposure to UV radiation has a devastating impact on animal life.

  • In domestic animals, an increased incidence of eye and skin cancer has been observed.
  • Marine life is particularly affected by the UV radiation – Planktons (tiny organisms that live on the surface layer of the sea) are particularly vulnerable. The loss of planktons leads to disruptions in the food chain, both the freshwater and saltwater food chains, and leads to loss of bio-diversity.
  • Young ones of several marine species, fish, prawn and crab are threatened by the UV-B radiation, affecting fish yields across the world.

D. Materials
Overexposure to UV radiation causes degradation of wood, plastic, rubber and other materials. The cost of replacing and/or protecting materials in the long-term will work out to be very expensive, both in terms of resource-depletion and finances.

IMPACT OF CFC PHASE-OUT


Phasing out CFCs along with other Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) will contribute significantly to the recovery of the ozone layer in the stratosphere.

In compliance with the Montreal Protocol (1987), as production and consumption of CFCs fall across the world, there will be a corresponding decrease in the amount of CFC reaching the stratosphere. As a result, there will be considerable reduction in the quantity of reactive gases such as Chlorine Monoxide in the stratosphere. This reactive gas triggers of catalytic chemical reactions, which destroy ozone molecules. Thus, a decrease in the release of this reactive gas, a direct by-product of the break-up of CFC molecules, will help in the recovery of the ozone layer.

BENEFITS OF CFC PHASE OUT

  • Protection of the Ozone Layer: The phasing out of CFCs will help tremendously in the recovery of the ozone layer. As a result of the phasing out, lesser amounts of CFCs will accumulate in the atmosphere, thereby leading to the less depletion of ozone.
  • Reduced Health Risks: The phase out of CFCs will have a positive impact on health risks posed by the depletion of the ozone layer. These health benefits include reduced incidence of skin cancer and cataracts, decreased risks to human immune systems, and increased protection of plant and animal life from excessive UV exposure. A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study shows that a sustained 1 percent decrease in stratospheric ozone will result in about a 2 percent increase in the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer, which can be fatal. With the successful phase out of CFCs, fewer instances of this fatal cancer are expected.
  • New Technologies: Phasing out of CFCs is prompting research and development of alternative technologies specially for cleaning applications in electronic assemblies and precision parts.
  • Energy Savings: As a consequence of CFC phase out, there has been considerable effort in many countries to develop and invest in a new generation of energy efficient air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. This also impacts positively on global warming and climate change.
  • Pollution Prevention: The energy savings from equipment upgrades mean that less fossil fuel are burned at the power plant, leading to reduced emissions of air pollutants including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). These pollutants are responsible for global warming and acid rain.

ALTERNATIVE REFRIGERANTS
There are several refrigerants that can be used to replace CFCs such as

  1. Hydro fluorocarbons (HFCs), which are non-flammable and have zero ozone depletion potential. However, they are immiscible with the mineral oils used with CFCs and HCFC.
  2. Hydrocarbons (HCs) are environmentally friendly and work well with the currently used mineral oil. However, they are flammable and certain precautions need to be taken during their use.

 





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