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What is the ozone layer and why is it important to us?

What is the ozone layer and why is it important to us?

What is the ozone layer and why is it important to us?

When most people hear talk of the ozone layer, it rings a distant bell as most likely you learned about in in grade school. However, for those of us who didn’t follow the path to becoming scientist or biologists, this information has been stored away in some compartment along with other data that we never actually use. Concisely speaking, the ozone layer refers to a protective layer made up of naturally occurring ozone gas that shield us from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays by absorbing them before they make their way to Earth. In scientific terms, ozone is a molecule found to be highly reactive and which contains three oxygen atoms. It is in a continual process of being formed and broken down in the high atmosphere right above our planet, called the stratosphere.

Unfortunately, studies now show that the ozone layer is depleting by cause of the pollution discharge involving the chemicals chlorine and bromine. What this means, is that vast amounts of ultraviolet-B rays can reach Earth, and here is wherein the danger lies for us. These rays dramatically increase the possibility of getting skin cancer and cataracts.

Animals are not spared, and in fact, there is a chain reaction from effects of extra ultraviolet-B radiation reaching Earth. The powerful and damaging radiation obstructs the reproductive cycle of phytoplankton, which are single-celled organisms found at the bottom of the food chain. There is widespread concern from biologists that the diminution in phytoplankton populations will thereby decrease the populations of other animals, and thereby increasing the number of endangered species or even the extinction.

The main villain of the ozone layer can be found in your typical household. Spray aerosols, which are commonly excessively used, contain chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Research has shown that industrialized countries emitted 90 percent of CFCs presently in the atmosphere in the Northern Hemisphere. If you stop and think about it, how many times have you used a spray aerosol, or seen someone use it? Now, imagine multiplying that number by the million! The problem arises when these chemicals make their way to the upper atmosphere, where they are then exposed to ultraviolet rays, and at which point they are broken down into substances such as chlorine. At this point, the chlorine reacts with the oxygen atoms in ozone and completely disintegrate the ozone molecule. As per the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, one atom of chlorine has the power to annihilate more than a hundred thousand ozone molecules! In other words, a chlorine atom is the Terminator for the ozone molecules.

Pollution over the decades has been especially detrimental to the ozone layer above the Antarctic. The reason for this can be explained by the region’s low temperatures which accelerate the conversion of CFCs to chlorine. During periods of extended daily sunshine, the chlorine is reacting with ultraviolet rays, and causing the destruction of the ozone at an alarming rate of up to 65 percent. Moreover, the ozone layer in other regions has deteriorated by approximately 20 percent. Fortunately, the United States and Europe banned CFCs by 1996, resulting in a decreased amount of chlorine in the atmosphere. However, according to scientists, it will take half a century for chlorine levels to reverse to their natural levels. In layman’s terms, that is in a very, very long time.

In a nutshell, the ozone layer is precious to human and animal life and should be preserved at all costs. The risks otherwise are what we are currently seeing, through the increase of ultraviolet B rays that make their way to our planet, our homes, our neighborhoods, and putting us all at a much higher risk of sun damage including skin cancer.

*Data compiled/adapted from National Geographic

The Importance of Sunscreen

The Importance of Sunscreen

Not everyone likes putting on sunscreen. I was one of those people. I don’t like touching my face or having it feel oily. Nevertheless, I can’t recall the last time I went outside, knowing I would be under the sun, without putting on sunscreen.

 

Many people are unaware of how sunscreen works. The photograph below is from a video created by the Melanoma Research Alliance in New York City. This video shows what skin looks like through an Ultraviolet camera. In the image below you see a woman who put on sunscreen on her face (left side Ultraviolet camera view and right side regular camera). You can see darker shaded areas is where she put on sunscreen. Our eyes cannot detect this black cover that protects us from UV rays, but an Ultraviolet camera can.

 

When we apply sunscreen to our body, it creates a protective layer. Many sunscreens offer water resistant protection for when you are in the water. Even with this extra protection, the sunscreens protective layer is more susceptible to coming off due to the water and may have a shorter lasting effect.  But, have no fear, Stella will advise you when to re-apply SPF and seek shade.

 

There are many sunscreen products, brands, SPF’s, for different purposes. All you have to do is find out what sunscreen suits you best. An excellent way to factor in which SPF can benefit you is by using our mobile app. You can pre-determine your burn rate and see which SPF is best for your occasion and skin type.

 

We are highly motivated here at Stella, to promote the use of sunscreen, as well as raise skin cancer awareness. We know that more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of overexposure to UV rays, therefore, we are excited to see people benefit from using Stella soon.

 

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Keep your eyes safe!

Keep your eyes safe!
The eyes are your windows to the world.

Unfortunately, many people never stop to consider the damages that overexposure to UV rays brings them.

Research has repeatedly shown, that the UV radiation from the sun increases the likelihood of having certain cataracts. Although they may be curable with modern eye surgery, cataracts diminish the eyesight of millions of Americans and cost billions of dollars in medical care each year.

You may be asking yourself, what are cataracts? If so, consider yourself to be lucky. Cataracts are a form of eye damage in which a loss of transparency in the lens of the eye, clouds the vision of a person. When left untreated, cataracts may lead to blindness.

Other kinds of eye damage include pterygium. Pterygium is when tissue growth begins to block your vision. Over 3 million Americans each year have to be treated for this. Skin cancer around the eyes and degeneration of the macula where the part of the retina’s visual perception is most acute is also a major problem that many people in the United States have to face each year.

All of these problems can decrease when you take certain precautions. Wearing proper eye protection is an imperative factor when combating against these health problems. Daily use of quality sunglasses can provide long-term protection for your eyes. Go and look for sunglasses, glasses or contact lenses that offer 99 to 100 percent UV protection. Sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of UV radiation will protect your eyes from cataracts and macular degeneration.

Many quality brands can help you protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. I use my Ray-Ban’s almost every day, and sometimes even when it’s cloudy outside. Your eyes are truly precious, so do your part and take care of them.