Ozone protection is a term used to describe policies intended to safeguard the ozone layer, a layer of atmospheric gas that protects the Earth from harmful ultraviolet radiation. In the 1970s, scientists began to recognize that the ozone layer was in danger in part because of human activities. This led to the promotion of legislation and other policy tactics to address the health of the ozone layer. Worldwide, numerous governments, organizations, and companies are working on various aspects of ozone protection.
Ozone gas in the ozone layer is sometimes referred to as stratospheric ozone. It has the effect of blocking some of the radiation from the sun, making the Earth more hospitable for living organisms. While ozone levels fluctuate naturally in response to meteorological events, human activities have contributed to the thinning of the ozone layer. Most notably, a hole in the layer develops over Antarctica every summer, exposing people in regions like Australia to dangerous levels of ultraviolet radiation.
There are a number of ozone protection measures that can be taken to prevent further thinning of the ozone layer. Legislatively, a number of laws have been passed to limit the release of ozone-depleting gases and other chemical compounds into the environment. This is designed to reduce the risk of additional damage. In addition, legislation has been passed to mandate safe disposal of products made with components that can contribute to ozone depletion. This is designed to ensure that as products end their useful lives, they are responsibly retired from use. These laws are enforced by regulatory agencies with the power to hold inspections, levy fines, and take other steps to address pollution.
Individual organizations lobby for better legislation, educate members of the public about the damage to the ozone layer, and sponsor services like hazardous waste pickup to limit the release of dangerous compounds into the environment. Individual companies involved in ozone protection work on tasks like reforming industrial processes, trapping pollution more effectively, and providing consumers with options for returning products that contain dangerous components. Corporate responsibility is an important part of ozone protection as voluntary changes in business practices fill in legislative gaps.
In 1987, the global community met to agree on the Montreal Treaty, an international agreement to commit to protecting the ozone layer. Periodically, meetings are held for the purpose of revision to incorporate new scientific knowledge. This international agreement has been highly successful, with all signatories agreeing that ozone protection is an important priority.