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Ozone layer recovery is saving millions of lives

New research shows how beneficial the Montreal Protocol has been
A computer generated image of the ozone hole over Antarctica. The ozone layer is recovering but...
A computer generated image of the ozone hole over Antarctica. The ozone layer is recovering but we are still a ways from normal. Credit: NASA(WITN Weather)
Published: Oct. 7, 2021 at 5:03 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 7, 2021 at 5:04 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - According to a new research team made up of National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR), ICF Consulting, and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Montreal Protocol has saved millions of lives. The team was formed to discover the impact of the ground breaking U.N. treaty which bans certain chemical compounds that deplete stratospheric ozone. The recent research shows it can be credited with saving 2.3 million lives from skin cancer death in the U.S.

In the 1970s scientist became aware of a loss in ozone in the stratosphere. This lead to a higher percentage of the sun’s damaging UV rays reaching the ground. The culprit behind the ozone loss were chemical compounds used in refrigeration and other related industries. If left unchecked, this depletion would lead to not only to a potential skin cancer pandemic (443 million cases model projected between 1900-2100), but irreprable damage to food production and natural wildlife. Global leaders came together in September of 1978 to curtail the ozone loss and did so with the Monreal Protocol, the only U.N. treaty signed by every member nation.

A break down of the protection the ozone layer gives us from UV light. 

Credit: NASA
A break down of the protection the ozone layer gives us from UV light. Credit: NASA(WITN Weather)

Since then, the results have been gradual, but all signs are pointing towards continued improvement. “It’s very encouraging. It shows that, given the will, the nations of the world can come together to solves global environmental problems,” said Julia Lee-Taylor, NCAR scientist and co-author of the story. Data shows that if current stratospheric ozone trends continue, we’ll be back to 1980 levels between 2040-2050.

Skin cancer is an issue many North Carolinians deal with every year. The rate at which we get skin cancer is higher than the national average and the American Cancer Society estimates 4,250 cases of melanoma will be reported in our state this year. The improvements in atmospheric UV ray relflection will help drive our rate and case numbers down over the next several decades.

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