The Ozone Hole’s Effect on Cavers
As concerned cavers, we must be aware of our effect on our environment. I am especially concerned after reading a book titled "The Holes In The Ozone Scare". It deals with public concerns over the ozone hole that many say
is caused by chlorine released from the breakdown of ChloroFluoroCarbons (CFCs).
Freon and Halon, a refrigerant and fire suppressant, are the two most common CFCs. As these two CFCs break down they release chlorine ions. Chlorine ions can cause two ozone molecules (O3) to reform into three oxygen molecules (O2). Were it not for this catalytic drawback, CFCs would be perfect for their applications:
• Freon is very stable and does not react with the other materials.
Aunt Bea’s fifty year old fridge’ testifies to that.
• CFCs, in general, are only slightly toxic.
If you’re in a computer room when Halon lets go; you stay put.
• Most CFCs are cheap and efficient.
Cheaper as patents run out.
• All CFCs are much heavier than air. Chlorine is too.
It is almost impossible for them to rise into the stratosphere.
Scientists all agree that it takes many years for CFCs to rise into the stratosphere (recent Nobel Prize winners say as many as forty). Yet the first observations of an ozone hole were made by G. Dobson in the 1950s, before widespread CFC use could possibly have had an effect. Dobson observed an Antarctic ozone hole opening around July and closing in November, and this is still happening. The Book’s authors ask “Is this hole caused by CFCs?” Many scientists, including G. Dobson, feel the ozone hole is a natural event.
For arguments sake we will assume there is a chlorine-caused ozone hole. The book’s authors examine where this chlorine might come from. One good source is the ocean; over 600,000,000 tons/year of chlorine are given off by evaporation and salt break-down. Another 36,000,000 tons/year of hot chlorine compounds and chlorine ions are injected directly into the stratosphere by...