Nova Scotians, like all humans, benefit from a protective layer of ozone, located in the Earth's upper atmosphere. The stratospheric ozone layer blocks harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun, acting like a natural sunscreen for planet Earth.
Over the past fifty years, certain chemicals created and released by humans have damaged the ozone layer, which has reduced the amount of protection from harmful UV that it provides to us. The ozone layer has been thinned most at the earth's poles, especially over Antarctica. But Nova Scotia is also negatively affected by a thinner ozone layer and increased UV radiation.
Why are we concerned?
The increase in UV radiation that results from a damaged ozone layer has harmful effects on human health, the environment, and the economy. Higher UV causes more cases of skin cancer and eye cataracts in people, and weakens people's immune systems. It damages crops and other plants, and causes serious harm to the organisms at the base of food chains in lakes and oceans. It also causes damage to synthetic building materials, like plastics.
Many of the impacts of increased UV radiation will only be fully understood in the future. This is because of complex interactions with other changes in the environment brought about by human activities, such as smog, climate change, and acid rain.
What is being done?
Nova Scotia participates with other provinces and the federal government in developing Canada's response to international initiatives and treaties on ozone layer protection, such as the "Montreal Protocol". Countries around the world are reducing, and will eventually eliminate, the production and use of ozone-depleting substances. Scientists believe that if people around the world can stop releases of ozone-depleting substances, the ozone layer will at least partly recover from the damage that has been done to it.
What regulations are in place in Nova Scotia to protect the ozone layer?
To reduce damage to the earth's ozone layer caused by releases of ozone-depleting substances, Nova Scotia regulates use of these chemicals. Use of ozone-depleting substances in Nova Scotia is governed by the Ozone Layer Protection Regulations.
Those who handle ozone-depleting substances or service equipment containing ozone-depleting substances are required to take environmental awareness training to ensure they are aware of provincial regulations and the reasons that ozone-depleting substances must be carefully handled and contained.
Releases of ozone-depleting substances are prohibited. All equipment must be leak-tested and the leaks repaired before it can be re-filled or "topped up" with ozone-depleting substances.
Some former uses of ozone-depleting substances, which result in frequent and deliberate releases, are prohibited. Examples include use of halon to test fire systems, use of CFCs to blow foam, and sale of pressurized containers which use CFCs (except medical uses) are prohibited.
Releases of ozone-depleting substances in amounts greater than 25 kg must be reported, pursuant to the Emergency Spill Regulations.
What can Households do to Protect the Ozone Layer?
Domestic appliances such as refrigerators, freezers and window-mount air conditioners contain refrigerants which should be properly removed before appliance disposal. Most municipalities provide a service to ensure refrigerants are properly removed before appliances are disposed of in their landfill so please do not try to remove the refrigerants on your own. Technicians who have taken environmental awareness training will recover the refrigerant from your appliance using a special recovery unit.
Contact your municipality or its solid waste collection agency for details of this service in your area.
What can Businesses do to Protect the Ozone Layer?
Owners of commercial equipment that uses ozone-depleting substances, and those that provide service to them, should stay aware of current provincial and federal regulations and future changes. Several ozone-depleting substances are no longer manufactured, use of some is prohibited and use of some will be phased out over time under international agreements. Awareness of forthcoming changes will allow businesses to better plan equipment service and replacement. Businesses requiring assistance with refrigerants and ozone depleting substances therein could be obtained from commercial refrigeration or ozone depleting substance recycling and disposal companies.
See other web sites about ozone layer protection on the links page.