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Ozone hole won't get bigger, says scientist GENEVA -

A hole in the ozone layer, the natural cover the Earth which blocks the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays, is already as big as it will ever get over the Antarctic, the United Nations meteorological agency said yesterday. But the world should now watch out for potentially more life-threatening depletion over Europe and America, it wanted. Mr Rumen Bojkov, special advis- er on ozone to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), told a briefing in Geneva that up to 10 per cent of the ozone had been depleted over Europe and North America by man-made chemicals in the past 20 years. "Over Geneva ' for example, we have lost nearly eight to 10 per cent of the ozone compared to the 1960s," he said. "Within the next 10 or 15 years, we may expect a stronger ozone depletion,, said the Bulgarian-bom scientist, who is a Canadian citizen and a world expert on the issue. 'We'll always have a little bit of ozone left over our heads but it may not be sufficient to protect biological species." In the hole, which was first seen in the 1980s and forms due to the unique Antarctic weather system known as the polar vortex, ozone depletion exceeds 60 per cent, he said. But the smaller declines in ozone elsewhere are potentially more life-threatening. The ozone is a fragile 'shield of gas that absorbs and blocks most ultra-violet rays of the sun. Scientists warn that skin cancers and cataracts could spread at alarming rates in the next few decades unless people pr themselves from such rays. Mr Bojkov said all the ozone subject to depletion by existing chemicals had been destroyed over the Antarctic. "We have reached the bottom. All the ozone contained within the polar vortex area between 14km and 22km is destroyed. That's it. We cannot have lower values than that. There is no more ozone to be destroyed." Studies show a one per cent drop in ozone levels causes an average 1.3 per cent rise in UB-V radiation. The hole over the Antarctic is currently around. 15 million square km in area. - REUTER

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