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"We're running out of time" to fix the ozone layer, UN weather experts claim.

Weather experts have expressed "alarm" at the unprecedented destruction of the protective ozone layer over large parts of the Earth in the past year.

"Statistically, one could expect such low values only once in 100 years," according to Dr. Rumen Bojkov, of the World Meteorological Organization, a United Nations environmental agency in Geneva.

Ozone levels over northern Europe, Russia and Canada last spring were 12 percent below the seasonal average, "an occurrence never before observed in more than 35 years of continuous ozone observations." Average values in January were 20 percent below normal over northern Europe and 16 percent over Canada. They were 15 percent below normal for Russia in February and March. The report was based on data from 140 ground stations and satellites.

Previously, the agency had reported dangerously high ozone depletion rates over the South Pole and southern Argentina and Chile.

The effects in Chile have been widely reported, and might be a portent of what's to come, some experts fear. Many American tv viewers saw pictures of sheep, gone blind with ulcerated eyes; and green cacti turned red.

Skin cancer and vulnerability to other diseases have also been linked to the damaged ozone layer, as have reduced crop yields and damage to marine food chains.

The damage is caused by high levels of the sun's ultraviolet rays. In the ordinary scheme of nature, the ozone layer shields the Earth from most of those rays. The "holes " in the protective ozone layer have been attributed to man-made chemicals, particularly chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs. CFCs are used in refrigeration, air conditioners, and aerosols. Last November a U.N. conference called for a ban on CFCs by the start of 1996... five years earlier than originally planned.

Substances developed as an alternative to CFCs are now also said to destroy ozone, as does methyl bromide, used as a pesticide and fumigant. a pesticide and fumigant.

Last year's alarming increase in ozone destruction was most likely caused, the scientists said, by a combination of manmade chlorine and bromine components reacting with lower-than-normal temperatures in the Antarctic. That combined with stratospheric aerosols from the volcanic eruptions of Mts. Hudson in Chile and Pinatubo in the Philippines to produce chemical reactions that accelerated ozone destruction.

Implementing the chemical bans "is a matter of urgency since our observations have proven that we're running out of time," the scientists said.
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Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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