How Can People Prevent Ozone Depletion?

Individuals can prevent ozone depletion by not using products that contain chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, hydrofluorocarbons, or HCFCs, and other human-made substances that destroy ozone molecules. Additionally, governments can ban the use of such substances and enforce regulations concerning the safe disposal of equipment that contains them.

Ozone-depleting substances are found in solvents, refrigerants, insulating foams, pesticides, fire extinguisher sprays and aerosol sprays. Once CFCs, HCFCs, halons, methyl bromide, carbon tetrachloride and methyl chloroform are carried into the stratosphere, the sun's ultraviolet radiation releases chlorine or bromine atoms that break apart ozone molecules. One chlorine atom is capable of destroying 100,000 ozone molecules, and bromine atoms are 60 times more damaging. The only way to halt ozone destruction is to stop releasing ozone-depleting chemicals into the atmosphere. Once the ozone layer is free of destructive chemicals, natural ozone production heals the damage.

The United States and other countries banned the use of CFC-containing aerosol sprays in the 1970s. Since 1987, most of the world's nations have agreed on the need to eliminate ozone-depleting substances by ratifying the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates programs that abolish production of ozone-depleting substances, oversee recycling of equipment that contains ozone-depleting chemicals, ensure that manufacturers label dangerous materials properly and research safe alternatives to ozone-depleting substances.