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Angermann, Barbara; Hoffland, Shelly (ed.) / Wisconsin engineer
Volume 93, No. 2 (December 1988)

Fieschko, Craig
The light may be stronger than you think,   pp. 11-13


Page 11


THE LIGHT MAY BE
STRONGER THAN YOU
THINK
by Craig Fleschko
It appears that the earth faces another
series of tough environmental questions,
and just like the problem of the Green-
house Effect, there are no easy solutions
Ozone is a triatomic oxygen
molecule with a bluish color and pungent
odor. Ozone can be produced by a large
electrical discharge in the air; this is why
most people associate the smell of ozone
with the fresh, clean odor of the air after
a thunderstorm with a lot of lightning.
Ozone can also be created in the upper
atmosphere when air is exposed to solar
ultraviolet radiation. This is how the
earth's ozone layer, which protects us
from the shorter, more harmful wave-
lengths of solar ultraviolet radiation, is
produced.
Chlorine is a pungent smelling,
poisonous greenish-yellow gas which is
used by the public and in industry in
bleaches, disinfectants, and water
purification systems. Chlorine is
responsible for the present destruction of
over 2% of the earth's ozone layer, which
is projected to cause thousands of new
cases of cancer and possible environ-
mental catastrophe.
If you haven't already heard
about the problems with the ozone layer,
you should have. The media first started
publicizing the deterioration of the ozone
layer in 1974, when chemists F. Sher-
wood Roland and Mario Molina found
that chlorine compounds known as
chlorofluorocarbons combine with and
The Theory of Today's Pollution
1. Chlorofluorocarbons used in
refrigerants, foams and other
products seep into the
atmosphere over many years.
2. The harmful chemicals take
7 to 10 years to rise up to the
stratosphere.
. . . '  '  '  '  '.   t  .   .E  . . ' '..'. :.. '. . . . ..  ., . . ..
..BE.
. . .  ... ... . - 1
.  ..... .. . .
.............. STRAOSPHRE.
()
3. Once in the stratosphere,
many of the chemicals persist
for 75 to 130 years, destroying
ozone all the while.
4
Cl)
Source: The New York Times
break down ozone. The chlorofluorocar-
bons (or CFC's) are produced by man for
use in refrigerators, plastics, propellants,
and solvents, and when released into the
atmosphere they rise until they reach the
ozone layer, where they mix with ozone
and destroy it. This presents a problem
because the ozone layer is the earth's
defense against ultraviolet radiation,
which can cause cancer, mutations, and a
host of other health problems in man and
other organisms. Due to the worry over
the destruction of the ozone layer, CFC's
were banned for use in the United States
as aerosol propellants in 1978. The CFC
problem wasn't entirely solved by the
ban, however, because CFC's were (and
still are) commonly used as plastic
additives, solvents, and refrigerants in
the U.S. and other countries, and they are
still used as aerosol propellants in other
countries. A complete ban on CFC's for
any and all uses wouldn't solve the
problem either, because CFC's are very
durable - they can last for over a
century before they are finally broken
down to the point where they are no
longer harmful. Even if CFC production
was to be totally halted tomorrow, the
CFC's that are in the atmosphere now
will still continue to eat away at the
ozone layer. It appears that the earth
Wisconsin Engineer, December 1988
11
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