There are significant numbers of adverse effects caused by the depletion of the ozone layer, as supported by several publications. The negative health impacts that are brought about by
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the depletion of the ozone layer and climate change and are categorised as either acute or chronic (Rass, 2006). The acute effects include minor skin injuries, such as skin dryness and photokeratitis, also known as the snow blindness (Neale, 2007).
The chronic impacts of ozone depletion on human include effects, such as skin cancer, photoaging, and the long term damages that the ultraviolet (UV) radiation causes the human eye (Parker & Morrissey, 2003).
The depletion of the ozone has not only affected the health of humans across the globe, but it has also contributed to the way the natural ecosystem is organized.
The climate has changed all over the world, with weather patterns changing every year (Water Program, 2011). This has become challenging even to the weathermen, who sometimes give contradicting weather expectations from what occurs.
The changing climate has impacted the ecosystem, where the migration of particular animals has been hampered and, in other cases, reversed (Mathole, Ndarana, Beraki, & Landman, 2014).
Various catastrophic climate-related events, such as hurricanes, have occurred in several locations, causing deleterious effects on human activity. The amount of water in the seas is said to be increasing day by day, which is a major threat to the habitat (Climate Action, 2012).
This paper seeks to discuss the impacts of ozone depletion on the health of human beings. It also examines the effects that climate change has brought to the ecosystem, the water systems in particular. Finally, the paper gives the economic impact of climate change.
Harm to Human Health
The effects of solar radiation on the skin
According to Parker and Morrissey (2003), the negative effects of solar radiation on human skin could be categorized as either acute or chronic. The acute refers to the short-term effects, while chronic effects refer to the long-term effects.
Among the short-term effects of solar radiation on the human skin include sunburn, thickening of the epidermis, and the dryness of the skin (Guhl et al., 2005). The chronic effects of solar radiation on the human skin include skin cancer and photoaging.
Thomas and Callen (2001) explain how sunburn occurs in a person. Inflammation of the skin, otherwise known as the sunburn or erythema, occurs the moment the skin is exposed to UV radiation of between 295-400nm.
However, the sunburn caused does not last more than 24 hours (Thomas & Callen, 2001). Melanogenesis, otherwise known as tanning, occurs when the skin is exposed to the solar radiation of above 295nm for more than one day (Parker & Morrissey, 2003).
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (2011), an increase in the exposure of human skin to the solar radiation can lead to various skin diseases. Such conditions include pemphigus, lupus erythematous, and skin photosensitivity.
Green (1999) adds that extensive exposure of the human skin to the solar radiation contributes to the suppression of the immune system.
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The most widely studied chronic effect of solar radiation on the skin of humans is the skin cancer. The World Health Organization (2015) writes that exposure to solar radiation catalyses basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). BCC and SCC are the primary causes of skin cancer.
It is interesting to note that the skin type is a contributing factor in the probability of whether one will be diagnosed with skin cancer or not. Young (2009) argues that humans with skin types 1 and 2 are more prone to skin cancer, while those with skin types 3 and 4 being less prone to skin cancer.
On the other hand, melanoma, a much less cause of skin cancer is the leading contributing factor to the deaths that are associated with skin cancer.
The main factors contributing to melanoma are the skin colour and the level of skin exposure to the solar radiation. In areas with low latitudes, such as Australia, pale skinned individuals are more prone to melanoma and skin cancer, compared to dark skinned people in the same region (European Commission, 2006).
To this effect, the European Commission generalizes that advice regarding protection from the sun should be focused on the white skinned people, rather than dark-skinned individuals because it is pale/white coloured individuals that are more prone to cases of melanoma and skin cancer.
According to the World Health Organization (2015), patients who have high numbers of melanocytic naevi are also at an increased risk of contracting melanoma.
Photoaging is a skin condition that occurs when skin ages as a result of prolonged exposure to the ultraviolet radiation (Gass, 2005).
The notable signs of photoaging include laxity, wrinkles, and uneven alignment of the skin pigments, as stated by the British Columbia (2013). When matrix metalloproteins (MMPs) are induced, the collagen in the human skin gets degraded, and this is believed to be the cause of photoaging.
According to the Social Learning Group (2001), there are specific ways through which mankind can protect himself from the damages caused by solar radiations on the skin.
Such measures include minimizing sun exposure, especially at noon time, drinking water in abundance to avoid dehydration and skin dryness, use of a sunscreen that has a sun protection factor of more than 15, and self-checking the skin on a regular basis to identify skin changes as they happen.
One can also take breaks in the shade when the sun is very strong, use proper protective clothing and sunglasses during high sunshine, and taking part in various seminars and events that are organized to train the general public on the potential damages of solar UV radiation on humans, as well as the best methods to protect oneself from the harmful effects of solar radiation.
The effects of solar UV radiation on the eye
Thomas and Callen (2012) give a good explanation of the human eye. The human eye can reflect visible radiation on its retina. The eye has several layers that shield it from sunlight by toning down the radiation. As a result, the eye is protected from the UV-induced photo damage.
One of the effects of UV radiation on the human eye is what is referred to as photokeratitis. According to Thomas and Callen (2012), photokeratitis is a painful condition that is inflammatory in nature. They signal that photokeratitis is, sometimes, referred to as snow blindness, whereas other people refer to it as welder’s flash.
However, Green (1999) reveals that photokeratitis will appear just 2 -12 hours of exposure and then disappear in just 48 hours.
Several studies have revealed that UV radiations from the sun cause ocular melanoma (Gass, 2005).
Other studies have shown that people, who take more time out, especially in the weekdays, are more prone to ocular melanoma than individuals who do participate in outdoor activities on specific days (Rass, 2006).
Ocular melanoma is determined by how much UV light comes into contact with the skin, but not the latitude of exposure.
UV-induced Vitamin D and its impact on health
UV radiations from the sun have various effects on the life of human beings. One such effect is the ability to catalyse the synthesis of vitamin D. According to the World Health Organization (2015), Vitamin D is crucial for the stability of the musculoskeletal system.
However, there is a worrying fact that is recorded by the WHO in the sense that quite a good number of the earth’s population has a deficit of vitamin D.
As a result, there have been increased cases of children developing rickets at an early stage of their development, especially in the third world countries like a majority of the African countries.
Several studies have demonstrated how UV radiations can transfer to the human body though vitamin D. Vitamin D deficiency has been proven to be an easy way through which UV radiations are able to penetrate though the human skin (Abdel-Naser, Krasagakis, Garbe, & Eberle, 2003).
When one is vitamin D deficient, then his skeletal composition becomes so worn out that the skin can no longer protect the body from harmful adverse UV radiations. As a result, there are high chances of contracting skin cancer and any other skin-related ailment brought about by UV radiations (Rass, 2015).
Weakening of the human immune system
According to Young (2009), there are a number of cases where excessive exposure to UV radiation has been associated with the weakening of the human immune system.
Suppression of the white blood cells, which are credited for the fighting mechanism of the human body, occurs with prolonged exposure to the sun’s UV radiation. When this occurs, the human body fails to produce the required antigens to fight diseases.
Young (2009) states that the weakening of the immune system due to the increased periods of exposure to the sun affects people with varying skin colours, irrespective of their location on the globe.
Green (1999) indicates that the weakened immune system due to over-exposure to UV radiation could be one of the leading causes of infections and diseases like malaria, leprosy, measles, tuberculosis, and various fungal infections.
According to the World Health Organization (2015), the efficacy of vaccinations is reduced once the white blood cells beneath the skin are weakened by intense UV radiations. The inability of the skin to fight infections is greatly contributed by the reduced ability of the skin to allergic reactions.
Impacts on Natural Ecosystems
Effects of climate change on water resources
The effects of climate change on water resources have been devastating. Climate change has come with increased temperatures that have increased the level of evaporation of the rivers and other water bodies (Water Program, 2011).
The result of this is that many rivers are now drying up or becoming temporary. Some deserts have also been created as a result of increased evaporation induced by increased temperatures. Some regions depend on glacier ice for the replenishment of their fresh water (Newman et al., 2014; Ganguly & Iyer, 2006).
However, climate change has brought with it very high temperatures that are posing a threat to these glaciers. Climate change has led to the reduction of the seasonally frozen ground water (The Department of Environmental Protection, 2010).
Consequently, lakes are disappearing as a result of permafrost draining and the coastal erosion at the Arctic has increased as well. The quality of our waters has been interfered with by the vast changing climatic conditions brought about by the depletion of the ozone layer.
The number of organisms in fresh waters has reduced significantly, and the composition of species in the same waters has changed a lot (Water Facts, 2010). There have been increased flooding as a result of climatic change, which have affected many livelihoods, including loss of property and lives in the worst scenarios.
The Economic Impact of Ozone Depletion
The economic consequences that are associated with the ozone depletion stem from the above discussions on climate change. The various skin-related ailments caused by prolonged exposure to UV radiation call for increased investment in the health sector to cure the diseases (European Commission, 2006).
Many countries are feeling the pinch of the climatic change, as they are injecting billions of money into the health sector to curb the health conditions.The change in climate has reduced agricultural productivity drastically.
Several countries are not able to produce enough food, as it used to be in the past years (European Commission, 2006). As a result, there have been increased hunger and droughts, which affect government expenditure, as it has to shift focus on how to feed its people.
The depletion of the ozone has contributed to various effects, both on the health of human beings, as well as to the natural ecosystems.
The various effects of ozone depletion on humans include skin ailments, such as skin drying and skin cancer, destruction of the human eye, and suppression of the immune system.
A good example of the adverse effect of climate change is the interference of the world’s waters. All these effects become economic burdens for the various countries.
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