Ozone Layer Headed To
'All Time' Thinnest By 2001
GENEVA (Reuters) - The earth's protective ozone layer will hit its all-time thinnest by 2000 or 2001, the World Meteorological Organization said Monday.
Despite forecasts that international measures to halt the decline will help the layer improve by the middle of the next century, the ozone layer is at its most vulnerable now and things will get worse before they get any better, the WMO said.
"We could expect this ozone depletion to be stronger than anything we have observed up to now," Rumen Bojkov, the leading ozone expert at the Geneva-based U.N. weather agency, told a news conference.
The ozone layer is a protective fragile shield of gas that absorbs harmful ultraviolet rays of the sun but has been increasingly pierced by
holes caused by man-made chemicals. The holes are blamed for causing skin cancer and cataracts.
Bojkov said the holes were forecast to stay for the coming 20 years before a recovery by the middle of the next century brings it back to the 1960s levels, according to scientific models.
But he said detecting any such recovery would take at least another 20 years because of scientific limitations.
The WMO also said its research showed that the role of the chemical methyl bromide as an ozone-depleting substance was less than previously thought. The fumigant used in agriculture was seen as the most important ozone-depleting chemical used worldwide.
It called on countries of the world to implement measures agreed by the 1987 Montreal Protocol -- an international agreement on limiting substances that deplete the ozone layer.
Under that agreement, developed and developing countries agreed to phase out CFCs -- chlorofluorocarbons which are commonly used in aerosols and refrigeration systems. Many experts doubt the targets can be met, although CFC use has dropped dramatically in many industrialized countries.

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