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EPA Marks 19 Years of Ozone Layer Preservation Progress

Release Date: 09/19/2006
Contact Information: John Millett, (202) 564-4355 / millett.john@epa.gov

(Washington, D.C. - Sept. 19, 2006) This week the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency marks the International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer. Nineteen years ago the United States joined the international community in signing the Montreal Protocol, a global agreement designed to protect the ozone layer.

"Recovery of the ozone layer depends on continued compliance with the Montreal Protocol, particularly as developing countries begin phasing out ozone-depleting substances," EPA Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation Bill Wehrum said. "The United States will continue to demonstrate global leadership by supporting the use of innovative ozone-protection technologies and approaches in this country and developing nations."

The Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was signed by the United States in 1987, and to date has been ratified by 189 countries. The United States has implemented key parts of the Montreal Protocol more rapidly and at significantly less cost than originally anticipated. In particular, the United States phased out high-priority "Class I" ozone-depleting substances such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) four to six years faster than planned and phased out 13 more chemicals than anticipated. EPA has also worked with industry to help bring new, environmentally-friendly products to market and ensure a safe, smooth transition away from ozone-depleting substances.

EPA's Significant New Alternatives Policy (SNAP) program has made the United States a global leader in protecting the Earth's stratospheric ozone layer. Under the SNAP program, EPA has identified and reviewed over 300 alternatives to these chemicals in major industrial, consumer, and defense applications preventing emissions of 3.3 million tons of ozone-depleting chemicals.

According to the most recent Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion (2006), the Montreal Protocol has been extremely effective; there is clear evidence of a decrease in the atmospheric concentration of ozone-depleting substances and some early signs of stratospheric ozone recovery. Full restoration of the ozone layer is a long-term goal, however. It is expected to take the rest of the 21
st century to recover (the Antarctic ozone layer is projected to return to pre-1980 levels by 2065). This critical long-term goal will be endangered if the world community fails to comply with the Protocol.

While work continues to ensure recovery of the ozone layer, EPA's SunWise Program leads the campaign to teach the U.S. public about sun safety. Depletion of the ozone layer increases ultraviolet (UV) radiation reaching the Earth's surface, leading to overexposure and the related health effects of skin cancer, cataracts, and immune suppression. To date, SunWise has registered almost 15,000 schools, science museums and other education institutions have registered to use the SunWise curriculum to educate children in grades k-12 on how they can prevent overexposure to the sun's UV radiation.

For more information on the Montreal Protocol: epa.gov/ozone/intpol/index.html

About EPA's Sunwise program: epa.gov/sunwise/