Immune System is Vulnerable Due to Ozone Layer Disruption

Immune System is Vulnerable Due to Ozone Layer Disruption

The ozone layer is a portion of earth’s atmosphere that contains high levels of ozone. The atmosphere is divided into five layers: the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere, the thermosphere, and the exosphere. The boundary of the outermost layer, the exosphere, extends roughly to 960-1000 kilometers above the earth. The ozone found in our atmosphere is formed by an interaction between oxygen molecules (composed of two oxygen atoms) and ultraviolet light.


When ultraviolet light hits these oxygen molecules, the reaction causes the molecules to break apart and forms single atoms of oxygen which are very reactive. The human body runs perfectly well on 100% oxygen; consider the fighter pilots who breathe 100% oxygen daily for years -- they have the highest reflexes, visual acuity and level of general health of any group of humans.

Ozone (O3) is an energized form of oxygen with extra electrons. It forms the protective ozone layer around the planet, yet becomes a pollutant when mixed with hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxide from automobile and factory emissions. Because ozone is an effective bactericide and fungicide, over 2000 municipalities around the world purify their drinking water with ozone. Ozone is a bactericidal, virucidal, antifungal and antiprotozoan therapeutic agent.

Though it occurs naturally in the stratosphere to provide a protective layer high above the earth, at ground-level it is the prime ingredient of smog. This 'bad' ozone, part of air pollution or smog, may pose a particular health threat to those who already suffer from respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. When inhaled, even at very low levels, ozone can impair the body's immune system defenses. Even moderately exercising healthy adults can experience 15 to over 20 percent reductions in lung function from exposure to low levels of ozone over several hours.

The ultraviolet radiation from the sun starting chemical cycles of ozone destruction, and depleting the ozone layer. The most notable news about ozone depletion is the appearance of a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. The links below will give you both basic and technical material on the subject of ozone depletion.

Stratospheric ozone protects the Earth's surface from high levels of biologically damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which is known to be a significant risk factor for skin cancers, eye cataracts, and immune system suppression. Due to the current downward trends in total column ozone at mid and high latitudes, the expected increase in UV exposure as a result of this ozone loss may pose a significant health risk.

According to the Indiana State of the Environment Report 1999 Lake and Elkhart counties had the most releases of toxic chemicals (such as lead and PCBs) among Indiana’s 92 counties. Unfortunately due to the various forms of pollution in the Northwest Indiana area, environmental pollutants such as UV radiation (ozone), lead and PCBs negatively impact our health. In order to ensure proper health for future generations and ourselves we must continue to improve and protect our environment from these pollutions and contaminants.

In addition, we must work to protect our environment, particularly the ozone layer. Estimates show that a 5% decrease in ozone could lead to a 5% increase in melanoma, a 10% increase in basal cell carcinoma, and a 20% increase in squamous cell carcinoma. Think of the ozone layer as Earth's sunglasses, protecting life on the surface from the harmful glare of the sun's strongest ultraviolet rays.

The American Public Health Association estimates that high ozone levels cause approximately 50,000 emergency room visits each year and result in 15,000 hospitalizations for respiratory-related illnesses. Permanent lung injury/reduced lung function from chronic exposure, as well as, temporary decreases in lung function of 15-20% during high ozone episodes. Studies continue to confirm the adverse effects of UV-B radiation on the eyes, skin, and immune system, including cortical cataract and skin cancer.

Human-produced carbonyl sulfide has attracted attention as a possible source of increased levels of sulfate particles, or aerosols, in the atmosphere, which have been linked to depletion of the ozone layer. Sulfate aerosols also influence global climate, causing cooling effects by scattering incoming solar rays and reducing the amount of radiation that reaches the Earth.

UV radiation suppresses allergic reactions of the skin and affects the immune system. When skin has been over-exposed to UV radiation, the activity of antibody-producing white blood cells is suppressed. These effects are not restricted to the part of skin actually subject to exposure, but may also occur on shielded parts of skin and throughout the whole immune system. As a result, the body fails to produce the antigens required for defense against a variety of diseases. This could have serious consequences, including a much-diminished effectiveness of vaccinations.

Since 1997 several reports have been presented by international scientists on the effects of ozone depletion on human health. The consensus is that depletion of the ozone layer leads to significant increases in ultra-violet-B radiation (UV-B) reaching the Earth's surface. This excessive UV-B is responsible for a wide range of potentially damaging human and animal health effects, primarily related to skin, eyes and immune system. Cataract, a disease of the lens is the most prevalent form of ocular damage associated with UV exposure.

Much of the damage to DNA in skin cells results from ultraviolet (UV) radiation found in sunlight and in commercial tanning lamps and tanning beds. UV light is divided into three wavelength bands — ultraviolet A (UVA), ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet C (UVC). Only UVA and UVB rays reach the earth. UVC radiation is completely absorbed by atmospheric ozone.UV penetrates the skin more deeply, weakens the skin's immune system and increases the risk of cancer, especially melanoma.

Melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, is thought to be associated with severe UVB sunburns that occur before the age of 20. Most UVB rays are absorbed by the ozone layer, but enough of these rays pass through to cause serious damage.UVC rays are the most dangerous, but fortunately, these rays are blocked by the ozone layer and still not reaching the earth.

Experts say the danger of developing skin cancer can be just as significant in the U.S., even in the nippy seasons. Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the U.S., making up more than half of all cancers here. More than 1 million Americans are diagnosed with the disease each year. One study reported that ozone might deplete the amount of vitamin E in the skin. This vitamin is an important antioxidant.

Most recently study shows that Ozone, a major component of urban air pollution, shuts down early immune responses in the lungs, which in turn makes the lung more vulnerable to bacteria and other foreign invaders,

It's known that exposure to ozone is associated with increased cardiovascular and pulmonary hospitalizations and deaths, but the actual mechanisms involved haven't been clarified. This study, by Duke University Medical Center pulmonary researchers, may provide some answers.

They found that mice exposed to unhealthy ozone levels showed amplified lung injury in response to bacterial toxins. The rodents also showed increased "programmed cell death" of the type of innate immune system cells that normally devour foreign invaders and keep the airways clear.

The innate immune system -- the most primitive part of the body's defenses - reacts indiscriminately to any invader.

"Small amounts of inhaled foreign material can be relatively harmless, since they stimulate an appropriate innate immune response that protects the lungs," study lead author and pulmonologist Dr. John Hollingsworth, said in a prepared statement.

"However, it appears that ozone causes the innate immune system to overreact, killing key immune cells, and possibly making the lung more susceptible to subsequent invaders, such as bacteria," he said.

A health issue of growing concern is that UV radiation can reduce the effectiveness of the human immune system. Consequently, sun exposure may enhance the risk of infection and could limit the efficacy of immunization against disease. Both of these act against the health of poor and vulnerable groups, especially children of the developing world, as many developing countries are located close to the equator and hence exposed to very high levels of UV radiation.

The body's immune system is its first line of defense against invading germs. Ozone inactivates viruses, bacteria, yeast, fungus and protozoa stimulates the immune system cleans arteries and veins, improves circulation' purifies the blood and lymph normalizes hormone and enzyme production reduces inflammation reduces pain, calms the nerves stops bleeding prevents shock prevents stroke damage reduces cardiac arrhythmia improves brain function and memory oxidizes toxins, prevents and eliminates communicable diseases, auto-immune diseases.

High ozone levels have been linked to increases in the severity of asthma attacks and other respiratory health problems, especially for children and the elderly. About 7 percent of healthy people have shortness of breath with ozone levels at 60 parts per billion (ppb), so the EPA is considering tightening the ozone standard from the current 80 ppb down to 60 ppb.

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