Posted on Aug 27, 2012, 6 a.m.
Link between climate change, ozone loss and possible increase in skin cancer incidence.
For decades, scientists have known that the effects of global climate change could have a potentially devastating impact across the globe, but new data suggests that it may also detrimentally affect human health. James G. Anderson, from Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA), and colleagues warn of a newly-discovered connection between climate change and depletion of the ozone layer over the US that could allow more damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation to reach the Earth's surface, leading to increased incidence of skin cancer. In the system described by the team, water vapor injected into the stratosphere by powerful thunderstorms converts stable forms of chlorine and bromine into free radicals capable of transforming ozone molecules into oxygen. Recent studies have suggested that the number and intensity of such storms are linked to climate changes, which could in turn lead to increased ozone loss and greater levels of harmful UV radiation reaching the Earth's surface, and potentially higher rates of skin cancer. The study authors urge that: “Were the intensity and frequency of convective injection to increase as a result of climate [change] … increased risk of ozone loss and associated increases in UV dosage would follow.”
James G. Anderson, David M. Wilmouth, Jessica B. Smith, David S. Sayres. “UV Dosage Levels in Summer: Increased Risk of Ozone Loss from Convectively Injected Water Vapor.” Science , 26 July 2012.