As Barbados joins with the rest of the world in celebration of International Day for the Preservation of the Ozone Layer, tomorrow, Tuesday, September 16, the Environmental Division of the Ministry of the Environment has sought to highlight the benefits of this fragile protective shield of the earth, and address the issue of its depletion.

In an explanation of why an entire day is devoted worldwide every year to promoting activities which speak to the depletion of the Ozone Layer, Rickardo Ward, Project Manager (Gullies) in the Environmental Division pointed out that “the Ozone Layer absorbs most of the harmful Ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation from the sun, and completely screens out UV-C radiation”. He went on to say that “a degraded Ozone Layer would allow more UV-B to reach the earth and result in more skin cancers and eye cataracts, weakened immune systems, reduced plant yields, damage to ocean ecosystems and reduced fishing yields, cause adverse effects on animals and more damage to plastics.”

Barbados’ contribution to the Global Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) phase-out effort came through the identification of the consumption of refrigerant gases to the main group of ODS chemicals, which are of national concern. Mr. Ward revealed that the Ministries of Commerce and the Environment will be publicising the contents of a regulation, under the Miscellaneous Controls Act, to govern trade in ODS and any equipment requiring the use of ODS, such as refrigerators, air conditioning units and the like.

According to Mr. Ward, Barbados has enforced a reduction in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), used principally in refrigeration, by 91%. “We expect to establish full compliance for zero imports by January 1, 2010,” he stressed.

This country is also up-to-date with ozone friendly globally implemented trends, as Mr. Ward elucidated. “Our imports of hydro-chlorofluorocarbon, or HCFC, refrigerant gases, have increased by 83% over the 1994 to 2007 period, and this is reflective of trends in the refrigeration industry, where the transition from CFC to HCFC gases was embraced, due to the lower destructive potential on the Ozone Layer associated with HCFC gases,” he emphasised.

Additionally, Barbados, as party to both the Vienna Convention on the Protection of the Ozone Layer and the Montreal Protocol – Global Partnership for Global Benefits, has effectively phased out all of the other non-refrigerant ODS chemicals identified under the Protocol, and these have not been imported into Barbados for several years.

HCFC gases, though non-depleting, possess high global warming potentials which, over time, are likely to come under increasing pressure for phase-out, due to global climate concerns. Subsequently, the next challenge to be faced by the Environmental Division, as it relates to ozone management, is the monitoring of

Barbados’ importation levels of HCFC gases and any equipment requiring their use over the next few years.

In commemoration of Ozone Day tomorrow, the Division will be distributing ‘Ozone Education Packs’ to primary schools across the country, over the next few weeks. Each pack will include a training guide for teachers, a variety of flash cards and appropriate teaching aids, as well as a meter which gives readings of ultraviolet radiation intensity.

It is the hope of the Environmental Division that usage of the ‘Ozone Education Packs’ will stimulate the interest of pupils, teachers, parents and, by extension, the wider society, to the protection of the Ozone Layer, and, even more importantly, create an ongoing awareness of personal skin protection when we are involved in outdoor activities.

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