Arctic stratospheric ozone depletion and increased UVB radiation: potential impacts to human health

Int J Circumpolar Health. 2005 Dec;64(5):509-22. doi: 10.3402/ijch.v64i5.18032.


Contrary to popular belief, stratospheric ozone depletion, and the resultant increase in solar UV-B (280-320 nm), are unlikely to fully recover soon. Notwithstanding the success of the Montreal Protocol in reducing the amount of ozone destroying chemicals into the stratosphere, the life-times of these compounds are such that even with full compliance with the Protocol by all countries, it will be decades before stratospheric ozone could return to pre-1980 levels. This raises the question, therefore, of what will happen to biological processes essential to the maintenance of life on earth which are sensitive to damage by increased UV-B radiation, particularly those involved with human health? The polar regions, because of the vagaries of climate and weather, are the bellwether for stratospheric ozone depletion and will, therefore, be the first to experience impacts due to increases in solar UV-B radiation. The impacts of these are incompletely understood and cannot be predicted with certainty. While some UV-B impacts on human health are recognized, much is unknown, unclear and uncertain. Thus, this paper attempts, as a first approximation, to point out potential impacts to the health and welfare of human inhabitants of the Arctic due to increased solar UV-B radiation associated with stratospheric ozone depletion. As will be seen, much more data is critically needed before adequate risk assessment can occur.

MeSH terms

  • Arctic Regions / epidemiology
  • Atmosphere / chemistry*
  • Cataract / etiology
  • Diet
  • Environmental Pollutants / adverse effects
  • Greenhouse Effect
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy
  • Inuit
  • Lymphoma, Non-Hodgkin / etiology
  • Ozone*
  • Simplexvirus
  • Skin Neoplasms / etiology
  • Sunburn / etiology
  • Ultraviolet Rays / adverse effects*
  • Vitamin D Deficiency / etiology


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Ozone