Ozone depletion and Volatile Organic Compounds Essay Sample

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The atmospheric issue that I chose to write about is the Ozone layer depletion and the indoor air pollutant is Volatile Organic Compounds. I am going to talk about the cause and effect of each of these issues and also efforts to mitigate the issues.

Our Earth’s Ozone layer protects all life from the sun’s harmful radiation. Due to all human activities damage has been done to our Ozone layer thus, causing harmful ray’s to enter and expose people to higher levels of Ultra Violet ray’s from the sun. Causing deadly skin cancer to humans and causing our crops to be damaged by the harmful Ultra Violet Ray’s.

The cause of the Earth’s Ozone layer depletion is man made gases called CFC’s and Halogens. These gases are emitted into the air from motor vehicles, factories, aerosol can’s and many other forms such as natural gases. The harmful gases rise to the stratosphere where the Ultra Violet Radiation then breaks them up and releases their chlorine. The chlorine destroys the Ozone layer. The main cause of our Ozone depletion is caused by CFC’s and related halocarbon gases. CFC’s for example from the Western countries several years to reach the stratosphere, where the Ozone layer is located. During the years that it takes to reach the Ozone layer, the wind carries them all over the world which is a cause of depletion throughout the entire Ozone layer. When in the presence of Ultra Violet light, these gases release Chlorine/Bromine atoms which destroy some of the Ozone layer. This is called, depletion.

A major effect of the Ozone layer depletion is harmful Ultra Violet rays being emitted into meters depth water, our soil, and all living beings. These Ultra Violet-B rays can increase the rate of cancer, mutation and crop yield decrease. (wiki.answers.com)

Volatile Organic Compounds indoors are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. These come from a variety of chemicals such as paints, varnishes, wax, disinfecting agents, cosmetics, degreasing agents, and also hobby products. All of these release organic compounds when they are being used or canisters are opened and exposed to the air.

Effects of Volatile Organic Compounds are eyes, nose, and throat irritation. As well as headaches, loss of coordination, nausea, damage to the liver, kidney’s, and the central nervous system. The major warning signs to look for when being exposed to cleaning agents or any other one of these VOC’s are nose and throat discomfort, allergic skin reactions, dizziness, emesis, and fatigue. The exact extent and nature of the health effects will determine how long someone was exposed, and the level of exposure to the harmful gases. A long term effect of this type of exposure can lead to cancer, and memory impairment along with other damaging effects to the liver, kidney, and lungs.

Efforts to mitigate the effects of each of these outdoor and indoor pollution is mainly through the government agencies varying from country to country. I researched the website www.epd.gov.hongkong. I learned that their efforts to mitigate the VOC’s emission and smog. The are implementing a wide range of measures to control the emission from the motor vehicles, power plants, and industrial and commercial companies. They have also been working with the Guangdong Provincial Government to put together a way or plan to stop the smog problems. They have come up with a regulation under the Air pollution control ordinance to require the recovery of petrol vapors being released when unloading at service stations.

They have implemented harsher emissions regulations. They have implemented VOC regulation to control the content in air fresheners, paint, and cleaning products which replaces solvent based, with water based. In certain cases, where solvent based can not be replaced, they say that by using paint brushes, and rollers rather than spray reduces the amount of thinners which is made up of 100% VOC’s. They have told customers that they can ask the store owners to show them where they can buy non VOC products or low VOC products or to buy the green label all together. Also, buy less packaging because the printing on the packages generates VOC’s. Lastly, avoid refueling your vehicle during the hotter period of the day to minimize the escape of the petrol vapors. Drive less and car pool is the way to help protect our world.

On January 14, 2013 from the www.esrl.noaa.gov web site, I have found a current event that talks about a chemist and her team and how they investigate the natural gas and oil operations to see if they are the main cause for ozone pollution. Just North of Denver, emissions from oil and natural gas operations could significantly add to the ozone pollution according to a new study by researchers from CSD and CIRES. At the test site, in Weld County they have found that the natural gas and oil operations are the most dominant source of certain gases in the winter time. These are the VOC’s that are the starting point for the main ingredients for ozone pollution, said Jessica Gilman. Gilman’s team found very high levels of VOC’s mainly propane in this area.

To find the source Gilman and her team had to analyze more than 550 samples of the air to determine that the oil and natural gas were the main source of those compounds and 55% of the hydrocarbons that add to the formation of the ozone pollution in that area. Many people would question her theory and ask how her team knew it was coming exactly from the natural gas and not from car exhausts or cattle farms or even cooking grills. Gilman answered, “she discovered that emissions from oil and natural gas activities have a unique chemical structure that is significantly different from emissions that come from any other source. And thus, identifies that oil and gas wells are the major source for high levels of VOC like ethane and propane in this area.”

Indoor air pollution and ozone depletion I believe go hand in hand. To protect our world and ourselves, we all need to go green…. Conserve, walk not drive, buy chemical free solvents. And no sprays.


Env.Sci.Tech.,in press,doi:10.1021/es304119a,2013
Jessica B. Gilman, B.M. lerner, W.C Kuster, and J.De Govw.

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