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Oct. 9, 2000: Ozone Hole Exposes Chilean City

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Oct. 9, 2000: Ozone Hole Exposes Chilean City
2000: The Antarctic ozone hole extends so far north that health officials in Punta Arenas, Chile, start warning residents not to go out in the midday sun.At 53 degrees south latitude, Punta Arenas is the world's southernmost city, sitting on the Straits of Magellan only 900 miles from Antarctica.The city of 150,000 people had suffered about a 12 percent loss in average ozone levels since 1980, but was usually beyond the edge of the deep ozone hole that plagues the south polar region. But this year was different. It was the end of the Antarctic winter, the annual maximum for ozone loss. An arm of ozone-depleted air drifted farther northward, over the tip of South America.Without the thin layer of ozone in the stratosphere to absorb ultraviolet radiation from the sun, people in Punta Arenas who ventured outside without protection could sunburn in as little as seven minutes. Public health officials sounded the alarm: Take precautions!The city's one dermatologist calculated that skin cancer cases jumped from 65 cases to 108 between 1987-1993 and 1994-2000.Although the ozone hole peaks annually in October, the danger continues through December when the antipodean summer sun is higher in the sky. The local health department posts color-coded danger signs to warn people of the daily ozone levels.Nonetheless, few people appear to be taking precautions. The local public health chief said in 2004 that residents wrongly downplay the danger because it doesn't get...

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