EPA Report Finds Ozone Layer Recovering

After nearly 20 years of international treaty protection, the six-mile-high ozone layer that shields the earth from harmful solar rays is on the road to recovery, but challenges remain, EPA stated on April 26.

The agency released a report, "Achievements in Stratospheric Ozone Protection: Progress Report," that highlights U.S. contributions toward helping the ozone layer recover. The report recognizes the substantial and successful investments of the many collaborators who have worked towards protecting and restoring the ozone layer, agency officials said. The ozone layer has not grown thinner over most of the world since 1998, according to the report, and the Antarctic ozone level is projected to return to pre-1980 levels between 2060 and 2075.

"We could not have made this progress without the collaboration of our partners from all sectors of our economy," said Bill Wehrum, EPA acting assistant administrator for the Office of Air and Radiation. "These partnerships have spurred progress in technology development and deployment that is protecting the ozone layer, saving energy, and preventing emissions of greenhouse gases."

In 1999, EPA estimated substantial benefits from the United States' work to restore the ozone layer, including:

  • By 2165, actions to protect and restore the ozone layer were projected to save 6.3 million U.S. lives that would otherwise have been lost to skin cancer.
  • Every dollar invested in ozone protection is estimated to provide $20 of societal health benefits in the United States.
  • Protecting the stratospheric ozone layer is estimated to produce $4.2 trillion in societal health benefits over the period 1990 to 2165.
  • Additionally, since many ozone-depleting substances are also greenhouse gases, replacing these substances with substitutes that are safer for the ozone layer can reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This September will mark the 20th anniversary of the landmark Protocol to protect the ozone layer. The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was adopted in 1987 and has been ratified by 191 countries.

The report can be found at http://www.epa.gov/ozone/2007stratozoneprogressreport.html.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.

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