The special vulnerability of children to the Sun's damaging ultraviolet (UV)
rays is the theme of today's 16th anniversary of the global
treaty that limits the emission of ozone depleting chemicals -
the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer.
These substances are chemicals containing chlorine and bromine
atoms, used primarily as refrigerants, fire suppressants, and fu-
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today praised progress made under
the Montreal Protocol, ratified by 184 countries, as "impressive"
with scientists reporting a decline in ozone depletion and the
first signs of recovery following efforts to eliminate the de-
structive chemicals emitted by human activities.
But 66,000 people each year are dying from melanoma and other
skin cancers, many due to the Sun's ultraviolet radiation, and
children are especially vulnerable, Annan recognized.
While we may be gratified with the progress that has been made
through international cooperation, we must not be satisfied until
the preservation of the ozone layer is assured, Annan said in his
message marking today as International Day for the Preservation
of the Ozone Layer.
"We cannot be complacent, Annan cautioned. The ozone layer re-
mains depleted above the Antarctic and the Arctic, as well as in
the midlatitudes of both hemispheres of the earth.
The Antarctic ozone hole has grown rapidly this year and as of
September 9 covered some 27 million square kilometers.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and other UN agencies today
warned that protecting children from skin cancers that are trig-
gered by overexposure to UV radiation is a matter of urgency.
As ozone depletion becomes more marked and as people around the
world engage more in Sun seeking behavior, the risk of developing
health complications from overexposure to UV radiation is becom-
ing a substantial public health concern," said WHO Director Gen-
eral Dr. Lee Jong-wook at the agency's headquarters in Geneva.
"UV radiation is of particular concern because people are often
unaware of the health risks. The effects of exposure often do not
appear until many years later and overexposure to the Sun poses a
risk to all populations, not just fair skinned ones," said Dr.
Mike Repacholi, coordinator of WHO's Radiation and Environmental