WASHINGTON, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Nearly a half-century after scientists first realized something wasn't quite right with the Earth's ozone layer, the protective layer of the Earth's stratosphere is showing signs of recovery.
According to a new report released by the United Nations, the hole in the ozone layer that appears every year above Antarctica has stopped growing and the layer is beginning to repair its vulnerabilities.
The concentration of ozone in the Earth's upper atmosphere is essential to life, as it absorbs and reflects from harmful radiation emitted by the sun -- thus protecting the planet's inhabitants.
Scientists first noticed the ozone layer was weakening in the 1970s; they quickly fingered a class of chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, commonly used in refrigerants and aerosol cans, as responsible. Strict regulation followed. In 1987, world leaders signed the Montreal Protocol, which helped phase out CFC use around the world. The ban has apparently helped the ozone layer regain its strength.
But scientists warn the Earth's atmosphere isn't entirely out of the woods yet. While the ozone layer is showing early signs of recovery, the U.N. report says it will likely be another 35 years before the ozone returns to the relatively healthy levels of the 1980s.