Questions for ‘Widely used pesticides may threaten Earth’s ozone layer’

looking down between trees in a navel orange orchard, an acricultural machine is spraying fungicide at the end of the aisle

Here, a copper-based fungicide is being sprayed on navel orange trees in California to protect the plants from brown rot fungus. This blight can cause crop losses of up to 50 percent. But such copper-based agents can make chemicals harmful to the stratospheric ozone layer, new data show.

Dave Thurber/Design Pics/Getty Images Plus

To accompany Widely used pesticides may threaten Earth’s ozone layer


Before Reading:

  1. Explain what Earth’s atmosphere is as though explaining it to an alien who has lived underground their entire life. What kind of substance is Earth’s atmosphere made of? State one way our atmosphere helps or protects. What is one example of a planet or other large space object with little or no atmosphere? After 10 years, what might our planet look like if we had no atmosphere? 
  2. Do a quick search of the following terms on the internet or in Science News for Students: troposphere, stratosphere and thermosphere. What do these terms have in common? Why are they important to humans? For each term, state a one-sentence reason. 

During Reading:

  1. What two compounds were produced through chemical reactions between copper and soil?
  2. What gets “filtered out” by the ozone in our stratosphere? How many oxygen atoms make up one molecule of ozone?
  3. What type of metal did the German team study in 2000? How did the experiments done by Robert Rhew and his team differ from that German study? 
  4. What type of particle shifts from one molecule to another in a redox reaction? How did copper’s redox reactions with soil compare with iron’s?
  5. What did scientists discover in 1985? What did the Montreal Protocol ban? 
  6. Susann Tegtmeier states a “bigger problem” about halogen compounds is they destroy ozone “catalytically.” By using the word “catalytically,” what does she mean? Why does that make the problem “bigger”?
  7. According to Martyn Chipperfield, what do we not always think about when it comes to chemicals?

After Reading:

  1. In discussing the environmental impacts of adding something to nature, Rhew says we should be careful because “some consequences are invisible.” What was the invisible consequence in this story? Make a list of five substances you use a lot in your day-to-day life. (Not necessarily harmful substances. For example, one substance could be ordinary soap.) Consider how you use those substances in everyday life. Also, consider any chemical abilities these substances have that make them useful to humans. (For example, soap’s ability to dissolve grease.) Then think about how those abilities might potentially have invisible consequences. Write down a specific question you have regarding possible invisible effects by any of these substances. Briefly explain your cause for concern.
  2. What is a redox reaction? What two substances react via a redox reaction in this story? Something else that works through a redox reaction is an ordinary battery. Consider the definition of electricity: A form of energy resulting from the one-way flow of charged particles such as electrons. Based on what you know about redox reactions, explain why it makes sense that a battery would operate by way of a redox reaction