The ozone layer is depleted by the reaction that takes place when ozone depleting substances (ODS) like chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrofluorocarbons (HCFCs) react with ultraviolet radiation in the atmosphere to release chlorine atoms. Chlorine atoms destroy ozone molecules by taking an oxygen atom from them, resulting in a chlorine monoxide molecule and an oxygen molecule. According to the EPA, “[o]ne chlorine atom can break apart more than 100,000 ozone molecules.” While the production of CFCs has been banned, the damage done by them for decades has still not been entirely repaired. In addition to this, there are still several harmful substances being released that break apart ozone, like methyl bromide (used in pesticides), halons (which are used in fire extinguishers, and methyl chloroform (an industrial solvent). The EPA banned HCFCs last year. Ozone creation is a natural process, and EPA claims that if all ODS production worldwide had ended in 2010, that the ozne layer could return to normal levels by 2050. The term “normal” should be taken with a grain of salt though, as it generally means pre-1960 levels, which is used as the baseline for measurements.
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