Although our industrial ways seem to be a very progressive step into the future, there are many flaws to the way many things are today. Things have definitely changed over the past century, as we can currently do things much more efficiently then before. The cost of this efficiency may seem inexpensive in many ways, however we do not realize that the cost of these new technologies do not just include money, time and labour, but it also costs us our well being as well as the beauty and comfort of our own home, earth. Ozone depletion, climate change as well as the direct effects of chemicals from industrial emissions and fuel combustion are a great threat to our planet and if nothing is done to resolve this problem soon, the results may be disastrous. There is a layer of chemicals twenty kilometers up in the stratosphere called the ozone layer. This layer protects the inhabitants of earth by reflecting much of the suns harmful ultra violet (UV) rays. Without this layer above us, many living things including humans could not survive. The ozone layer is currently depleting and the reason for this is believed to be caused by a few things.
Deforestation, fertilizer use and fuel combustion are minor contributors to this problem while chemicals such as chloroflourocarbons (CFCs), halons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl chloroform, methyl bromide and hydrochloroflourocarbons (HCFCs) are the major contributors to the deterioration of the ozone layer. These chemicals have industrial halocarbons that break up into chlorine and bromine in the upper stratosphere when they react with the sun’s rays. Chlorine eats up the ozone layer while bromine acts as a catalyst and speeds up the process. Often found in Antarctica, there are frozen chemical clouds in the upper stratosphere called polar stratospheric clouds. These polar stratospheric clouds destroy the ozone layer at a much faster pace then the industrial halocarbons. The depletion of the ozone layer is a great threat to mankind and all other living things on earth because without this layer of chemicals, we will be exposed to excess UV rays.
This excess exposure can lead to many things such as malignant melanoma and non-melanoma skin cancer, damage to eyes by means such as snow blindness and cataracts, which is the clouding of the eye that can eventually lead to blindness. Above all this, excessive UV exposure can lead to symptoms similar to AIDS as prolonged exposure could weaken the human immune system. As far as plants and animals go, plants may die or may not be as healthy as a result of too much UV exposure and animals will suffer similar symptoms as humans. So if the ozone layer that we depend very much on is destroyed, it could be concluded that we as inhabitants of the world are also destroyed. It is believed but not yet proven that we are altering the world climate by releasing chemicals into the atmosphere by a process called “global warming” or the “greenhouse effect”. Some of the chemicals that are believed to contribute to the greenhouse effect are carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide, halogen gases and CFCs. These chemicals cause the climate of the world to increase by trapping the suns heat in the atmosphere and can last anywhere from one decade to one century.
Although chemicals released by man only account for one third of the greenhouse effect, it is our contribution to this problem that will set the world off balance. It seems now that by the year 2100, carbon dioxide will double, causing global temperatures to rise to anywhere in between one point five to four point five degrees Celsius. Many people may wonder why global warming is such a problem as humans can easily adapt to their environment. If this global warming causes global temperatures to rise, we as humans will be able to cope with this change, however plants and animals may not be able to adapt to this change and as a result they may die and become extinct, resulting in a break in the food chain. The ocean levels will also continue to rise as they have been at a pace of two to eight centimeters a decade for several more decades. In fact, if Antarctica melts slightly the ocean level can rise u…..p to sixty meters. As the global temperatures rise, the world will become drier and therefore there will be more droughts, and heat waves possibly causing more fires and again producing more CO2 and further contributing to the problem. Ocean temperatures, currents and fish habitats will also change with the climate of the world.
Chemicals however, are not only believed to heat up the world in the process of global warming, chemicals are also the probable cause of an unexplained coolness in some parts of the world. Sulfur dioxide is a chemical that reflects sunlight and because it reflects sunlight it is assumed that sulfur dioxide cools specific areas of the earth that should be warmer. Chemicals cause a lot of indirect damage to all living things on earth, however, it is possible and most frequent that chemicals endanger the lives of living things directly. Unintentionally inhaling chemicals is one way these chemicals can harm us directly. Carbon monoxide, when inhaled, binds to the blood’s hemoglobin and prevents the necessary oxygen from reaching tissues. When inhaled, carbon monoxide can also dull mental acuity. A deadly chemical cloud at ground level called smog also endangers the health of living things. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from vehicle exhaust and industrial emissions combine to form ozone at ground level. When the sun reacts with this ozone layer at ground level, it produces smog.
Every year the ozone layer at ground level has increased by one percent. As carbon dioxide emissions increase throughout the world, some plants may benefit from this increase and so this excess carbon dioxide may act as a fertilizer, but to other plants, too much carbon dioxide may be a bad thing, causing the plant to die and possibly become extinct. The St. Claire River is now known as “Chemical Valley” because of an accident that had occurred there several years ago. An industrial company near the river had spilled sixty different chemicals mixed together into the river. This accident had sterilized the river and had effected much of the agriculture around it. The Great Lakes is another example of the direct effect of chemicals on living things. There are chemicals in our body today that there not present back in the early 90’s, the polluted Great Lakes that we locals depend on, are believed to be the cause.
Animals reproducing near the great lakes and that rely on the great lakes are more frequently unsuccessful then before, female birds are growing crossed bills, males are either immune to this or die in the shell, fish are being feminized because the do not have secondary sex steroids which chemicals from the pulp and paper industry are believed to be responsible for. For humans, the sperm count in men has decreased fifty percent in the last fifty years, breast cancer has become an epidemic, males experience genetile disorders and children have problems learning. Chemicals released into the atmosphere by industry, vehicles, fertilizer use, etc. can harm plant, animal and even human health, so therefore if this problem is not resolved quickly, the world we live in now could soon turn into a world of chaos. If a species of any animal becomes extinct the food chain will collapse, if any species of plants become extinct the food chain again will collapse and if that species of plants is used for any type of medication, the people who depend on that medication may also die.
There are some organizations in the world that are trying to turn things around, however there are not enough people to support these groups. The general public doesn’t seem to care much about this problem or is not yet aware of this issue. Even the government of Canada doesn’t not want to take action against pollution more then likely because of budget limitations. It was concluded by Dr. Gordon McBean that “Humans have already radically altered the composition of the atmosphere and hence it’s radiative properties. In other words, we have quite unintentionally started a long-term, global-scale geophysical experiment with the life-support system of this planet – an experiment that we do not control and, as yet, poorly understand. That, in itself, is cause for concern.”