EU Reports Thinning Ozone Layer over Arctic; Possible Threat to Human Health
BRUSSELS, Belgium Record low temperatures over the North Pole are thinning the protective ozone layer, a condition which could affect human health in northern countries and even central European nations, the European Union warned Monday.
"Large ozone losses are expected to occur if the cold conditions persist," said European Commissioner for Science and Research Janez Potocnik.
He said the first signs of ozone loss have been observed after an extremely harsh winter above the Arctic.
The ozone layer keeps out ultraviolet radiation, which is dangerous to humans and animals. Less protection could increase risks of skin cancer and affect biodiversity, scientists say.
Because of the record lows over the Arctic, scientists have been put on alert to monitor closely the condition of the ozone layer over the coming months.
"The meteorological conditions we are now witnessing resemble and even surpass the conditions of the 1999-2000 winter -- when the worst ozone loss to date was observed," said Dr. Neil Harris of the European Ozone Research Coordinating Unit in Britain.
He said temperatures at a 20 kilometer (12 mile) height had dropped to an average of minus 80 degrees Celsius (minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit), the lowest over the Arctic in half a century.
People in some northern countries who work out in the open should taken special precautions for sun protection in a month, Harris said.
While there are considerable year-to-year variations in the Arctic, there has been ozone loss in the southern Antarctic during almost all winters since the late 1980s.
"The concern is that the Arctic appears to be moving into Antarctic-like conditions which will result in an increase in UV radiation levels that will have consequences on human health in northern hemisphere countries," the statement of the EU head office said.
It said the hole in the ozone layer could affect areas around the polar zone, Scandinavia and even down to central Europe.
Source: Associated Press