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Ozone threat: the risk to us

[Leicester Mercury story, July 17, 2002]

The ozone layer is wearing dangerously thin all over Britain, say scientists - and Leicester experts have been called in to find out how this will affect us.

The University of Leicester's Space Research Centre is leading a 1million research project examining the thinning of the ozone layer over northern Europe and the risk it poses to health.

The 1,000km-wide dent in the ozone layer has been discovered over the Arctic and moves down over the UK in the spring.

Ozone protects the earth from the sun's ultraviolet radiation, and doctors are concerned that if it is eroded further, more people will be affected by skin cancer.

Dr John Remedios, project co-ordinator, said: "Initial predictions suggest that we will have quite strong ozone depletion over Europe over the next 30 to 50 years. There is a risk that the ozone thinning over Europe will lead to increased levels of skin cancer.

''What we are trying to assess is just how great that risk is.

"We are worried about what is going to happen over the next decade. The thinning could become worse and the ozone depression could come down more frequently over the UK.

"We would have to take much greater care about how we protect our skin during the months of ozone depletion.

"People going skiing may have to take the sort of protections that are currently taken for a sun-soaked holiday in the tropics."

As part of the research, specially-adapted spyplanes will be used to fly into the stratosphere and collect data on ozone levels.

And the European Space Agency satellite Envisat will collect more data.

The European Union is funding the project to find out how it will develop over the next 10 years.

The University of Leicester team, which is working with scientists in other parts of Europe, will analyse data from an EU data-gathering mission called Vintersol, due to start in November.

Evidence already collected on ozone thinning over the Arctic shows that the duration of the depression has increased by three to four weeks over the past two decades. Over the last decade it has passed more frequently over the UK.

Emissions of ozone-depleting gases such as CFCs - chlorofluoro carbons - have been blamed for the large hole in the ozone layer.

Scientists expect the ozone layer over both the Antarctic and the Arctic to recover in the longer run as a result of a ban imposed on the emissions.

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Last updated: 19 July 2002 10:55
Created by: Rachel Tunstall

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