Good-Bad Atmosphere Pollution
by Elliott King, age 9
Some pollutants can actually be useful to people in some places, even though they are harmful in other places. For example, ozone is a gas that is important in the high atmosphere, but harmful in the low atmosphere where it becomes a pollutant. Down on Earth, ozone is a major ingredient in smog and is dangerous to living things, including people. Ozone is made when oxygen interacts with sunlight high in the atmosphere. Yet, we need ozone in the high atmosphere because it keeps the Sun’s harmful rays away from our skin. When ozone disappears, more of the rays reach the Earth, damaging plants and causing more sunburns and skin cancer in people.
On the other hand, chlorofluorocarbons, or CFC’s, are useful chemicals on Earth, but create serious problems high in the atmosphere. CFC’s are found in products such as spray cans, computer parts, and even fire extinguishers. Even though we use CFC’s on Earth, when they float up into the atmosphere, they react with ozone and destroy it. With less ozone in the atmosphere, more dangerous ultraviolet rays from the sun can reach Earth and potentially harm all living things.
Many people are realizing how serious this problem is. 180 countries so far, including the U.S., have agreed to work towards stopping the production and use of CFC’s. The Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences reported a slowdown in ozone destruction between 1996 and 2002, and the hope that eliminating CFC’s on Earth will bring ozone levels back up in the atmosphere.
[Source: Odyssey Adventures in Science]