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Article last updated in 2014


The Ozone Hole – Ozone Depletion, Sunscreen-Blockers, Skin Cancers, Eye Cataracts and the healing properties of our Sun

I have pulled together a few articles off the Internet to illustrate a complex, environmental problem. The ozone layer is a protective shield that is located high in our atmosphere and it shields us from harmful UV (ultraviolet radiation). At certain times of the year and at southern and northern locations, the ozone layer thins out and harmful UV penetrates our atmosphere to affect living organisms e.g. phytoplankton, animals and ourselves. UV radiation can cause eye cataracts to form and also leads to the onset of skin cancers i.e. malignant melanomas.

Fair-skinned people living in the southern and northern tips of the globe are most affected and the ozone layer around these regions can be quite large some years but smaller in other years. Thus, the ozone layer that is high in our atmosphere protects us from and ‘filters’ out harmful UV radiation. However, we release chemical pollutants into the atmosphere which diminish the number of ozone molecules and the ability of the ozone layer to protect and shield us from these harmful UV radiation diminish.

The above is some of the background to this issue and the next thing to think about is what can we do to ensure we do not contract skin cancers, especially if we are fair-skinned and live in areas of the world where the ozone layer is depleted. I had a quick look on the web and was surprised to find no evidence to support the notion that using sunblockers reduces the incidence of skin cancers. What I have found is that using sunblockers reduces the absorption of harmful UV radiation but that is a completely different question when it comes to reducing rates of skin cancers. Clearly, there is a lot more we need to know before we decide on the best strategy to decrease our chance of contracting malignant melanomas.

As ever, become critical of all information placed before you and ask further questions on the efficacy of using exclusively, sunblockers, clothes that screen out UV radiation and attempting to stay out of doors in direct sunlight as much as possible. Intuitively, I find the last strategy of minimising our chances of contracting skin cancers by shunning the sun as being a bit strange as we are children of the sun and its rays sustain us. At best, it makes sense to stay out of the sun when the levels of stratospheric ozone are low or the sun is at its maxima. You can also stay out in the sun for specified periods based on consideration of all the above but at the end of the day, there are few people who will see the sun as an ‘enemy’ and come out only after dark!!

I reproduce a very good article on the evaluation of our species within a sphere of sunlight. In times past, the sun was our friend rather than enemy and if you look hard eough you will find lots of information on the healing properties of the sun, sun clinics, sun practioners and advocates, regardless of the levels of ozone and other earth-shield atmospheric 'protectors'. As seems to be the case nowadays, what we are sold as being 'bad' may well be 'good' for us and at the end of the day its a question of finding a balance in how our bodies bathe in light from the sun, regardless of where we live and whether we work outdoors or indoors for most of the day.

This part of the website will be refreshed with new information on a regular basis and it is interesting to note at this very early juncture that sunblockers are quite expensive, are advertised aggressively yet there is little data on their efficacy in reducing rates of skin cancers. If you know better, send your information, data or views in.


Ultra-Violet: The Untold Story by Michael Lofton (from Atlantis Rising Vol 11 1997)

As the days get longer and warmer our venture into the sunlight increases. Every year the confusion begins, again... Before leaving your indoors, those sun glasses best be put on and that exposed skin be protected with sun blocker lotion. Also, when you go outdoors, you need to wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a wide-brimmed hat. Is sunlight truly this harmful, does it significantly threaten us with skin diseases? Considering the many media reports surrounding the sun's possible danger to our skin, another perspective may be in order...

Electromagnetic radiation comes in many forms. The most familiar is visible light. Other forms include x-rays, ultraviolet (UV), infrared, microwave and radio waves. Daylight consists of direct solar radiation, diffused radiation from the sky (skyshine) and wavelengths reflected from surroundings, such as buildings, etc. Generally a great deal of ultraviolet radiation is absorbed by the water vapor of the atmosphere and even more by smoke and dust particles. From October to February, above the central North American latitudes, the ultraviolet content of sunshine is at its lowest.

Surprisingly, there is a relatively higher amount of ultraviolet in the skyshine than in direct sunshine. The ocean, sandy beaches and snow can furnish a diffuse and, at times, a very powerful form of sunlight. The large amount of ultraviolet in skyshine accounts for the fact that it is possible to get sunburned on a beach on a cloudy day when there is no direct radiation from the sun. The reflection of ultraviolet from the surface of water is twice as great as from a field of grass, but only one-fourth as much as from freshly fallen snow. Ordinary window glass in our homes, offices and automobiles prevents the passage of most ultraviolet rays. A person would have to sit at a place indoors where the ambient illumination is at least 20-foot candles for at least twenty hours to get as much ultraviolet radiation as he would get in two minutes outdoors in sunlight at noon.

Let there be light in the biblical term no doubt meant both visual and non-visual light. Of the radiation striking the earth, approximately 50% has a visible wavelength of 400 and 700 nanometers. A nanometer (nm) is the standard measurement used to express wavelength of light. It is equivalent to one billionth of a meter in length. Although such visual color exposure (violet, indigo, blue, green, yellow, orange and red) are only a fraction of all wavelengths known to mankind, color combinations and blends of hue in this visual range can exceed 100 million. There continues to be controversy over the non-visual ultraviolet (100 to 400 nm) frequencies which equal 10%, and infrared (over 700 nm) wavelengths which are 40% of all radiation reaching earth. Of course, the fact remains that without ultraviolet and infrared our world would not be the same. Infrared provides us with the required heat that keeps us warm. Ultraviolet provides us with the ability to fight off germs in the air (UVC), creates skin pigmentation as a natural protector (UVB) and helps in our vitamin and mineral absorption capabilities (UVA). UVC are the shortest ultraviolet rays and virtually all of these frequencies are absorbed by our atmosphere and the ozone layer. The remaining UV light that reaches the ground is about 10% UVB and 90% UVA at midday.

Heliopolis, a Greek city was famous for its sunlight healing temples. Herodotus, the father of heliotherapy wrote: exposure to the sun is highly necessary in persons whose health needs restoring. In winter, spring and autumn, the patient should permit the rays of the sun to strike full upon him; but in summer, because of the excessive heat, this method should be used in moderation. Downes and Blunt, in 1877, discovered the dramatic ability of sunlight to destroy and provide for an effective means of treating bacterial infections. Another famous practitioner of sun therapy was Auguste Rollier MD, whose clinic was at 5,000 feet above sea level. Dr. Rollier stated that his patients would get the best results if they received the highest amount of ultraviolet light at this altitude. Ultraviolet intensity increases 4% to 5% every 1000 feet ascended. He apparently substantiated incredible results, which were published in his book La Cure de Soleil / Curing with the Sun.

Mild, sensible exposure to sunlight is not only safe, it is desirable, noted by Dr. John Ott, the pioneer of modern day photobiology, and author of Health and Light; Life on Earth evolved under natural sunlight and has existed for quite some time under the full (visual and non-visual) spectrum of light that it contains. Many prehistoric tribes and even entire civilizations worshiped the sun for its healing powers, using its light to treat physical and mental problems, a practice known as heliotherapy. There is no question that UV light in large amounts are harmful; however, in trace amounts, as in moderate amounts of natural sunlight, it acts, according to Ott, as a life-supporting nutrient that is highly beneficial.

Is it possible that science has gone too far? According to Ott, This may be one of the biggest blunders science has made in the last fifty years.

As stated in Dr. Jacob Liberman's book, Light, Medicine of the Future; In summary, these findings, along with those of many other highly respected scientists and physicians, seem to indicate that the human body is truly a living photocell that is energized by the sun's light, the nutrient of humankind. Dr. Liberman further exclaims, Moderation is the key. Mild, sensible exposure to sunlight is not only safe, it is desirable. There are people all over the world who live at high altitudes or at the equator, where levels of ultraviolet light are high, yet they are virtually free of all types of cancer. It seems that other factors such as nutrition,

lifestyle, and so on, need to be evaluated. Now, according to new guidelines from the American Cancer Society, healthy habits, such as good nutrition and avoidance of smoking, may greatly decrease your odds of getting skin cancer. Are the western medicine folks really starting to agree with the aforementioned statements substantiating sunlight? Not necessarily.

Modern scientific medical research claims that sunlight, especially ultraviolet rays, are and continue to be hazardous to your general health. Major financial interests have made this controversy even more obscure.

Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer

According to the editor D. Joseph Demis, MD, PhD in the publication, Clinical Dermatology, Vol. 4; It is likely that UV light has a direct effect on the epidermis as well as the dermis. A notable effect of irradiation is the development of impending cellular death. The direct damage to membranes, premature aging and skin wrinkle, according to this publication, has been thought to be due to absorption of ultraviolet light. Basal cell carcinoma (BCC) is the most common form of skin cancer. The National Cancer Institute has estimated an annual incidence of 400,000 cases of BCC in the United States alone. the statement continues, Ultraviolet radiation and chronic sun exposure is an important factor in the development of BCC. About 95% of the UVB incident on human skin is absorbed, but only 10% to 20% penetrates beyond the epidermis. The amount of UVA dosage for redness in the skin is 600 to 1000 times that of UVB. Although UVB is implicated in much of the connective tissue damage, shorter UVA in the 320 to 340 nm range is probably responsible for the bulk of UVA -induced photodamage.

The dichotomy continues. Niels Finsen, in 1903, won the Nobel Prize for successfully treating skin tuberculosis with the ultraviolet portion of light. On August 7, 1982 a British medical journal, called The Lancet, gave an interesting report on relationship between skin cancer and the sun. Researches found that the people who had the lowest risk of developing skin cancer were those whose main daily activity was outdoors. It was found that the incidence of malignant melanomas was considerably higher in office workers. Might this indoor phenomena be the cause of the continued rise in skin cancer death rates? The incidence of malignant melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer, has increased 1,800 percent since 1930, and melanoma mortality rose 34 percent between 1973 and 1992, which has been documented by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Yet, outdoor activity without sufficient sun protection remains as the main concern of the Skin Cancer Foundation and dermatologists. Interestingly enough in 1928, the world's first commercial use of a sunscreen, an emulsion of benzyl salicylate and benzyl cinnamate, was reported in the United States.

But wait, still more information from the book Sunlight by Zane Kime MD shows beneficial results with moderate exposure to ultraviolet frequencies. Noted in Dr. Kime's book single exposures of a large area of the body to ultraviolet light were found to dramatically lower elevated blood pressure (up to a 40 mm Hg drop), lowered abnormally high blood sugars as found in diabetics, to decrease cholesterol in the bloodstream, and to increase the white blood cells, particularly the lymphocytes which are largely responsible for the body's ability to resist disease. The author became increasingly convinced, as he studied the available research data, that the highly refined western diet plays a leading role, both in the aging process and in the development of skin cancer, and that sunlight seems only to accelerate the problem.


What about your normal inside lighting environment, how does it stack up to natural outdoor lighting and UV exposure? Generally, the illumination of indoor lightbulbs are dedicated to the yellow-green portions of the visual spectrum. Incandescent lamps emit these colors due to heating of the element in the bulb. Fluorescent tubes emit these yellowish frequencies due to their single phosphor manufacturing techniques. New product development has allowed for lighting to incorporate a greater spectrum of the visual frequencies with the blending of the three primary radiant colors, red, blue and green. The output of these newer, full-spectrum lamps provides for a more uniform, balanced, natural blue-white illumination. All recently manufactured incandescent bulbs (excluding halogen types) and fluorescent lights are virtually nonexistent in ultraviolet radiation exposure at a distance greater than a couple feet.

What is the bottom line with your next resolve to go out into the light of day? Consider this from Electrotherapy and Light Therapy by Richard Kovac MD. Overexposure to sunlight may cause varying degrees of sunstroke, heat stroke or sunburns and such symptoms as headache, undue fatigue or irritability. Properly applied on the other hand, sunshine and open air will act as a powerful tonic, increasing general powers of resistance and promoting mental and physical development. For this reason the duration and extent of exposure to sunshine should be carefully graduated and those who do not pigment efficiently or easily should be warned to be especially careful...

Michael J. Lofton is the CEO of The GMI Group and its division Prism Perfect Technologies, an indoor full-spectrum lighting consulting group. He can be reached at 970-259-2454970-259-2454.


Article 1 from: http://whyfiles.org/173skin_cancer/4.html



“You've read the advice. Slather up with as much sunscreen, SPF 15 or above, as your skin can hold. Wear a shirt. Wear a sombrero -- and sunglasses.

And if you've gotta go outside, bask in the moonlight. It would seem to be a great prescription for health, especially for reducing basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas. But when you focus on melanoma -- the truly deadly skin cancer (about 7,000 deaths per year in the United States) -- you may be surprised to learn that nobody has proven that sunscreen [PRODUCTS] helps protect against it”. “Actually, the raw data on sunscreen and melanoma are frightening. In one study, people who "often" used sunscreen had 3.34 times as many melanomas as those who "never" slathered up. It's not a statistic you'll see on a sunscreen ad, and it's actually the most extreme example of the studies that find an association between sunscreen and melanoma.

To get a better picture of the relationship, Michael Huncharek, a radiation oncologist at Marshfield (Wis.) Clinic, and colleague Bruce Kupelnick examined existing studies of the issue. They started by winnowing 166 studies to 11 that met their criteria. Among those studies, the "odds ratio" of getting melanoma among users of sunscreen was 1.11. In other words, despite the reduction in non-melanoma skin cancers, sunscreen users had an 11 percent greater chance of getting melanoma compared to non-users. However, Huncharek points out that because the 95 percent confidence interval around this odds ratio included 1.0, the finding was not statistically significant. "The observed odds ratio of 1.11 could have occurred purely by chance," he says.

Thou makest no sense

That finding is not heartening to those who want to prevent the most deadly skin cancer. And it doesn't make a lot of sense to many doctors, who note that melanoma is linked to sun exposure, that sunscreen does block much harmful UV, and that campaigns to cover up (using clothing and sunscreen) in Australia are credited with stabilizing a rising rate of melanoma. To get a better picture of the relationship between melanoma and sunscreen, Huncharek applied a practice called "meta-analysis" to the 11 studies. Meta-analysis tries to derive the true import of previous studies that [lead to] conflicting [data]. "One advantage of meta-analysis is that it provides a systematic way to look at a body of data, to get clearer understanding of what the data are telling you," says Huncharek. "Our intention was to scrutinize the information very critically, looking at the way the studies were put together, where they were located, how the control groups were chosen, and then try pick them apart, to find out why some studies are showing that sunscreen seems to increase the risk and others that it decreases the risk."

The statistical manipulations are complex, but Huncharek explains that he looked at how much the results varied among studies, on the theory that studies showing a wide variation were less reliable. In other words, if all of the studies were looking at the same phenomenon -- how sunscreen influences melanoma -- they should all have similar results. "If you have 50 studies, are the findings of each study pretty much in line with each other?" Huncharek asks. "If they are, you have consistency. But if five studies gave wildly different outcomes, you have to ask, how do they differ from the others that have relatively consistent results?" When Huncharek applied those standards, he found that many of the inconsistent studies were done in hospitals. These studies, he maintains, are subject to error. Different hospitals, for example, have different types of patients -- patients at large, referral hospitals tend to be sicker than those at community hospitals.

Huncharek finally wound up with four studies that seemed coherent and unbiased -- and that showed a relative risk of 1.01 percent for sunscreen and melanoma. In other words, slathering [using sun cream products] had no effect on the incidence of cancer. It did not hurt, and it did not help. That was better than finding that people who use sunscreen are more likely to get melanoma, but not a great sales pitch for Banana Barge Sundope #9. But the epidemiological arguments over the melanoma-sunscreen issue do not end there. Epidemiology, the study of who gets sick in the real world, often involves a statistical morass with, cynics would say, the ability to prove anything at all. Why do the studies about sunscreen and melanoma have such inconsistent results? Perhaps because the studies are "confounded" by factors that are difficult to control:

Source of bias: Effect on study results:

People genetically prone to melanoma tend to use more sunscreen. Sunscreen seems less effective in preventing melanoma.

People genetically prone to melanoma tend to stay out of the sun. Reduces apparent link between sun exposure and melanoma.

Poor memory of:

— Sunscreen usage levels

— Type of sunscreen used

— Hours of sun exposure

— Number of sunburns. Reduced ability to detect a real relationship among skin cancer, sun exposure and sunscreen use.

Publication bias (negative studies seldom get published). If unpublished studies found no protection from sunscreen, meta-analysis will overestimate value of sunscreen.

Recall bias (people with melanoma may remember more sunburns). Overstates role of sunburn in causing melanoma.

Sunscreen users have more sun exposure. Sunscreen may seem linked to melanoma.

Genetic susceptibility to skin cancer not controlled. Bias depends on study population.

Yet despite the problems, epidemiology is a necessary tool for studying issues like sunscreen, says Stephen Marshall, an epidemiologist at the University of North Carolina. The gold standard for proving cause and effect in medicine is the randomized, controlled clinical trial. But that would be expensive, lengthy, and ethically questionable, since sunscreen does protect against several diseases. A second tactic would be to study the issue with animals, but unfortunately they don't get melanoma - or didn't until recently (see below). One of the biggest obstacles in melanoma research has been the fact that animal melanomas did not resemble human melanomas. Now, Edward DeFabo of George Washington University Medical Center has tricked mice into making realistic tumors. First, he genetically altered the mice so they would make melanocytes in the same part of the skin as humans. When he exposed 13 mice with UV 3.5 days after birth, four got melanomas that were, under the microscope, almost indistinguishable from human melanomas. (The UV equaled what a child would have gotten in 2 hours, 37 minutes in San Diego, Cal. on July 4, 2000.) Interestingly, when DeFabo and colleagues zapped 12 6-week-old mice with twice as much UV, they got no melanoma (see "Neonatal Sunburn..." and "Animal Models..." in the bibliography).

That curious result echoes what scientists have suspected with human melanoma, DeFabo says -- even a single sunburn in childhood raises the risk of melanoma. While the mice, and presumably also people, require a genetic predisposition to melanoma, he says the study "absolutely supports" the link between childhood sunburn and melanoma.

So slather thy child with strong sunscreen. Next step for DeFabo is to identify the exact UV wavelength that causes melanoma, which should simplify the task of proving the sunscreen-melanoma conundrum.

Still, studies of sunscreen and cancer are prone to many biases, Marshall says. For example, it's unclear whether the sunscreen used in old studies was really effective. For years after the Food and Drug Administration approved the "SPF" (skin protection factor) system in 1979, sunscreens were relatively weak, Marshall adds. "Given that we haven't had effective formulations for an enormous period of time, and given how long it takes to develop cancer," many of the sunscreens being studied do not represent what you could buy today. A second problem stems from faulty recall. What was the SPF rating of the product you used 20 years ago? Marshall, who has studied how accurately retired football players remembered their injuries, says people may recall details remarkably well, especially if they, like the football players, had a reason to be interested in the subject. But researchers can also help their subjects remember. In studies of particular oral contraceptives, he points out, epidemiologists may help recall with photos of the drug containers. Such a tactic might also help elucidate the murky history of sunscreen use, he says. "In epidemiology, undoubtedly the best studies put a lot of effort into stimulating this kind of recall," Marshall says. Overall, Marshall says, epidemiologists need to take a closer look at what he calls "systematic biases," those that push results in a specific direction. In terms of sunscreen research, for example, he observes that people who use sunscreen spend more time in the sun. "I don't put it on to watch TV on the couch," he says. "I put it on because I am outdoors, and being outdoors means more UV exposure, so I am at a higher risk for melanoma." Despite the impeccable logic, he adds, only one of the 11 studies that Huncharek looked at adjusted for the amount of time spent outdoors. Yet if Marshall is right, people who used sunscreen start with a higher risk of melanoma, so a study that shows they had the same risk as non-users may actually demonstrate that sunscreen works ...

 Epidemiology - it's not just lies and damn lies.

 The point is not to impugn epidemiology as a science, but to improve the quality of the results. One day, it may be possible to study sunscreen while controlling the uncertainties and biases, and produce a definitive answer to this intriguing question: Does sunscreen actually help prevent melanoma? In the meantime, we can only go along with the experts. Sunscreen and covering up both help prevent skin aging, and at least two forms of skin cancer.

So be smart. In the meantime, as you read contradictory findings from epidemiologists, remember that this field has its own rules and regulations. "Epidemiology is not people flying by the seat of their pants," says Huncharek. "You can't show anything you want with statistics, that's a very dangerous thing to tell the public. You can lie just as easily with lab data as with epidemiology. You can get spurious results from both sides of the aisle. It's a result of sloppy thinking, sloppy work."


Article 2:  An alternative view to the exclusive use of Sun blockers, By Maryann Gogniat Eidemiller FOR THE TRIBUNE-REVIEW, Saturday, August 7, 2004

When Vanessa Redman took her toddler daughter to the Florida beaches, people often asked what she was wearing. A swimsuit with sleeves and with legs down to the knees was not a common sight in the United States, although it's popular summer apparel in Redman's native South Africa and in Europe, Asia and Australia. The style is slowly catching on here, and it's not just a fashion statement. The swimwear that her daughter, now 7, still wears provides protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays with the ease of zipping on a stylish little outfit, then covering the face and the rest of the body with sunscreen lotion.

Redman's friends were impressed.

"They would ask me to please bring back suits when I went to South Africa," she said in a phone interview from her home in Boca Raton. She was so encouraged by their interest that she founded Sunwise Swimwear, and in the first year sold 1,000 suits. Just a few years later, annual sales are up to 100,000. This season, the suits are being distributed under the Coppertone label. Redman is one of a handful of parents whose personal concern about guarding their children from the sun led them into the business of providing protective clothing.

According to the American Cancer Society, as few as two early childhood sunburns increase the risk of skin cancer later in life. Despite that warning, Americans lag behind in using sun protective clothing. "People don't think you can buy a fabric that can block the sun but as soon as they hear about it, they go out and purchase it," Redman said. A tight weave provides that protection and must meet industry standards set by the International UV Testing Laboratory in Auburn, Ala. The fabric must provide an ultraviolet protection factor of 15 to 50-plus in order to be certified as SPF50.

"In the rest of the world, these suits are usually black, but Americans have their own tastes in styles and colors," Redman said. "So we listened to what they said, changed our suits, and they are truly American suits designed by Americans." Amy Fowler, of Potomac, Md., first saw protective swimwear when she was living in England. "They are common there, and I loved the concept," she said. "When we moved back to the States, I expected to see more of them around, but I didn't. Every time I went to England, I bought a whole bunch, and when I wanted to re-enter the work force, I wanted to make a living helping children and doing something that I have a passion for." Two years ago, Fowler started marketing Splashkins by Mad Max, named after her children, Maddie and Max. She also joined the American Cancer Society and works as an educator for the Maryland Coalition for Skin Cancer Prevention. One of the concepts she teaches is "flip, flap, slack and wrap." "Flip on a shirt, flap on a hat, slack on some sunscreen and put on wrap-around sunglasses because UV rays are also very damaging to the eyes," Fowler said. But not everyone wants to take that advice.

"When I train a group, there's usually a roomful of people who say they want to tan," she said. "But I say, 'That's up to you. You're a grown-up, but you're responsible for a 4- or 5-year-old.'" Fowler notes regional differences in the sale of her products, with most orders coming from California and the Northeast. "UV protective clothes aren't real big in places like Florida," she said. "People who grew up in the sun are in a sun culture, and they don't want to hear that what they do every day is harmful." Lisa Dewey, president of Solartex Sun Gear, based in Richmond, Va., sells most of the company's products in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey and New England. "The fewest orders are from the sunniest parts of the country," she said. Dewey, an attorney, and her partner, Laurie Whitman, a pharmacist, founded the company when Dewey looked for sun protective clothing for her two red-haired, pale-skinned children. She turned to international sources for their needs, then started importing sun protective clothing and other related items for children and adults. "Anyone who has tried these clothes becomes a believer once they see how easy they are to use and how much more protection they provide than sun screen, which can rub off or rinse off," Dewey said. Mark Schmidt is marketing director of SunSafe, a protective clothing company based in Florida, and which is a National Partner in Education with the American Academy of Dermatology. He first saw the clothes when he was in Asia and Australia. "Nobody had it in the United States then, and it was the roll of the dice for us," he said. "We've been doing this for over 10 years now." In that time, he has seen attitudes changing about the need for sun protection. "You get to a certain age and your body starts behaving differently and you start noticing dots on your skin," he said. "People are becoming more conscious about wanting to have nicer skin. Also from a safety perspective, it's one form of skin cancer that's so common but so preventable, and we actually have some control over it."

For information, visit www.sunwiseswimwear.com, www.splashskins.com/faq.htm, www.solartex.com or www.sunsafe.com.

The views above are solely the author and this article is included here so that you can decide on the best course of action in preventing various forms of skin cancers, especially to your children.


Article 3: http://home.thirdage.com/science/saruman/ozone1.html - robert parson’s faq at: rparson@spot.colorado.edu

I made a few changes to make it a bit more accessible and easier to read. My changes are in brackets e.g. [stratospheric ozone………].

The Earth is a unique planet because it has an atmosphere that is capable of sustaining life. The atmosphere has been here for billions of years, yet humans have done a great deal of damage to it in the last century. The Industrial Revolution, harnessing electric energy, and the internal combustion engine have all done some damage to the atmosphere by creating smog. But some of the most damaging substances we have spewed into the air are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and bromine. These chemicals destroy stratospheric ozone, which protects us and the animals from solar ultraviolet radiation. This dilemma, which was created by the solution to a problem for the refrigeration and air-conditioning industry, has been identified, the nations of the world have agreed to a plan to solve the dilemma, and the results, especially from the industry that caused the problem, have been mostly favorable. Before CFCs were developed in the 1920s, dangerous chemicals such as sulfur dioxide and ammonia were used as refrigerants. After Thomas Midgeley developed CFCs, many uses were found for the new chemicals. These uses, such as refrigerants in refrigeration chillers and air-conditioning equipment, and propellant in aerosol cans, generally allowed the CFCs to escape into the air at some point during use. The chemicals end up in the stratosphere where they can destroy ozone, which allows more ultraviolet radiation to strike the Earth's surface. In the 1970s research started to piece together the link between [the use of] CFCs and [rates of] ozone depletion. By the late 1980s it became apparent that there was a [causal] connection, and the nations came together to solve the problem. Several meetings have taken place to address the ozone depletion problem. The best known meeting was in Montreal in 1987, and the agreement formed is called the Montreal Protocol. The Montreal Protocol set a timetable for the phaseout of CFCs, as well as halons, which contain bromine. Subsequent meetings have added HCFCs and changed the dates for reductions and phaseouts. Fortunately the dates have been moved up instead of back. The results of the meetings have been mostly successful. The phaseout of CFCs was accomplished on time, or early in some countries. Systems have been redesigned, making them more efficient and reliable. The best result is that the ozone layer is now being protected and will start healing itself in the decades to come [readers need to carefully check this statement by accessing sites with up to date information on rates of ozone depletion especially during the cold winter months in the north and south poles].

 Ozone Depletion and Chlorofluorocarbons

The Earth's atmosphere is composed of several layers. The lower layer is called the troposphere and extends to an altitude of approximately 36,000 feet [approximately 11,000 metres]. The next layer extends to 30 miles and is called the stratosphere. Above the stratosphere is the mesosphere, extending to 50 miles. The outermost layer is the thermosphere, which is made up of the ionosphere and the exosphere. The thermosphere ends at an altitude of 600 miles. The part of the atmosphere referred to as the ozone layer exists in the stratosphere. The ozone layer starts at approximately 15 miles and extends to 30 miles. In this region is the highest concentration of ozone. Even though the concentration is high, the ozone only constitutes one-millionth of the atmosphere (Somerville, 1996). While ozone is rare, it has the important function of shielding the Earth from solar ultraviolet radiation. This shielding protects all the living organisms that inhabit the planet, including all animals and humans.

Ozone Formation and Destruction

Ozone is the triatomic form of oxygen, meaning it consists of three oxygen atoms, and is identified chemically as O3, [the oxygen that we breathe is diatomic i.e. two atoms of oxygen or O2]. In the troposphere, where we live, ozone is a form of pollution. Ground level ozone is an end product of private and industrial energy consumption. [Ground level ozone is a real problem and it affects asthma sufferers and those with respiratory problems. Lots of chemicals release small amounts of ozone, particularly, cleaning solvents and computer screen monitors, as do the secondary pollutants of vehicle emissions. Therefore, stratospheric ozone is good whilst ground level ozone is problematic].

Stratospheric ozone is formed naturally. Ozone is formed when single oxygen atoms combine with the diatomic, or normal, form of oxygen (O2). Single atoms are formed when diatomic oxygen absorbs solar ultraviolet radiation (Somerville, 1996). This process is called dissociation, and the chemical equation is written:

O2 + UV => O + O

The free oxygen atoms then combine with diatomic oxygen:


O + O2 => O3

Ozone is destroyed naturally by two different processes. The first is when a free oxygen atom combines with an ozone molecule to produce two diatomic oxygen molecules:

O + O3 => 2O2


The other process in which ozone is destroyed is when ozone molecules absorb ultraviolet radiation and form one diatomic oxygen molecule and one free oxygen atom:

O3 + UV => O2 + O

The time interval between the formation and natural destruction of ozone [in the atmosphere] varies greatly. Ozone molecules can have a lifetime of only a few minutes, or they can survive for several months. The average life of [atmospheric] ozone is eleven days (Rowland, 1997).


In 1928, Thomas Midgeley, Jr. was trying to develop a refrigerant that was non-toxic, non-corrosive, non-flammable, and chemically inert. Prior to Midgeley's research, substances such as sulfur dioxide and ammonia were used in domestic refrigerators. These refrigerants were toxic and/or flammable, creating a safety concern (Cox and Miro, 1997). Midgeley used the characteristics of the elements in the periodic table to create a new class of refrigerants. These new refrigerants were called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs made ideal refrigerants, and over time they have been used as propellants in aerosol cans and solvents in the electronics industry, as well as refrigerants for domestic, industrial, and automotive air-conditioning systems.

As CFCs were used, they were eventually discharged into the atmosphere. Whenever refrigeration systems were drained, the refrigerant was allowed to escape. The CFCs in aerosol cans were dispelled with the product. The production of CFCs during the mid-1960s had reached a level of 300,000 tons per year (Rowland, 1997). Most molecules that are propelled into the atmosphere are removed within a few hours to a few weeks by three general processes (Rowland, 1997). The first process is called photolysis, which is when the molecule absorbs sunlight. The second process is dissolution in water, or rainout. The final way molecules are removed is through a reaction with the hydroxyl radical (OH.) or ozone, a process called oxidation. CFC molecules differ from most molecules in that they are transparent to sunlight, are insoluble in water, and are chemically inert to oxidizing agents. Therefore the aforementioned processes will not remove them from the atmosphere. The molecules can remain in the lower atmosphere for a long time before being pushed into the stratosphere by powerful storms at the equator.

A British scientist named Jim Lovelock used an electron capture detector (ECD), a device he invented, to test for the refrigerant CFC-11. Using air samples collected in Ireland, he showed that CFC-11 was present at a level of approximately 50 parts per trillion [50 ppt]. Lovelock then boarded a ship to test the air from England to Antarctica. This testing proved that CFC-11 was present everywhere in the atmosphere (Rowland, 1997). In a paper published in 1974 in Nature magazine, Nobel Laureates F. Sherwood Rowland, Ph.D. and Mario Molina, Ph.D. hypothesized that molecules carrying chlorine and bromine up to the stratosphere were destroying the ozone at that level (Dugard, 1997). This article started the concern over stratospheric ozone. Molina and Rowland also estimated the lifetime of a CFC-11 molecule in the atmosphere to be 40 to 80 years, and 75 to 150 years for a CFC-12 molecule. Further studies proved the lifetimes to be 50 years for CFC-11 and 100 years for CFC-12 (Rowland, 1997).

CFCs and Ozone

In the stratosphere, CFC molecules absorb an intense, highly energetic solar ultraviolet radiation called UV-C (Rowland, 1997). UV-C is not present near the Earth's surface because it is absorbed by the ozone layer in the stratosphere. The CFC molecule is destroyed as it absorbs the UV-C. The chemical equation for the reaction with CFC-11 is:


CCl3F + UV => Cl + CCl2F

The free chlorine atom then attacks an ozone molecule, and the reaction yields a chlorinemonoxide molecule (ClO) and a diatomic oxygen molecule:

Cl + O3 => ClO + O2

After destroying the ozone molecule, the chlorine monoxide molecule will react with a free oxygen atom to form a free chlorine atom and one diatomic oxygen molecule:

ClO + O => Cl + O2

These last two chemical processes can take place 100,000 times for each chlorine atom that is freed from a CFC molecule. Given the natural destruction of ozone, coupled with the destruction from man-made compounds, the average lifetime of an ozone molecule is reduced from eleven days to nine or ten days.

Bromine atoms carried into the stratosphere in halon molecules go through the same type of process as chlorine atoms. The difference is that bromine is ten times more powerful [in destroying] ozone than chlorine.

The Ozone Hole is Discovered

A group of scientists from the British Antarctic Survey measured the ozone level in Antarctica. The team, headed by Joseph Farman, took yearly measurements at Halley Bay. In the spring of 1981 (September in Antarctica) they noticed that the ozone level dropped by 20%. The ozone level then increased in the following months. In 1985 the ozone level decreased 50% in the spring. Farman and his group are credited with discovering the ozone hole over Antarctica. While it is called a hole, the ozone hole is actually a thinning of the ozone layer over the South Pole (Somerville,1996).


Article 4: Ozone FA by Robert Parson (pdf) click here

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