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Monday September 15, 2014 - 11am

11:00- Ozone Study
Hind A. Al-Abadleh, Associate Professor in the Department of Chemistry at Wilfrid Laurier University
Reading headlines on September 10, 2014 about the start of recovery of the ozone layer over Antarctica cheered my heart as someone who teaches about the chemistry of the ozone hole and the role that chloroflourocarbons (CFCs) played in speeding up the destruction of this ‘shield’ gas up in the stratosphere. To place this news in the context of environmental history: In 1974, it was scientifically established that CFCs used in fridges, radiators, spray cans, and air conditions are agents that can destroy stratospheric ozone, and it was 13 years after that the Montreal Protocol was established for a total global ban on the production of CFCs by the late 1990s. This protocol is one of a kind international treaty by politicians, hosted by Canada that sent the right message to the people of the Earth that governments care about the ozone layer. It also sent the signal to the industry that manufactured the CFCs that you need to innovate and come up with chemicals that have useful applications to society, but would not cause environmental degradation. In effect, the treaty revoked the social and political licenses given to industrial sectors that made the CFCs. We’re in 2014 now, 40 years after the science was established, and 27 years after the Montreal protocol was signed. It is in September 2014 that reports of the first signs of recovery of the ozone layer are reported. Why? Because CFCs have a very long lifetime in the atmosphere (140 years for CFC-12 known commercially as Freon 12 or R-12), even after stopping their emissions. This is why we’re still experiencing ozone loss in Antarctica every winter and spring time in the Southern hemisphere. While full recovery is projected to happen in 2050, the impacts from global climate change on ozone loss are still uncertain.

11:30- Needles in Victoria Park
Melissa Y., Concerned Victoria Park resident
Contaminated syringes are a big problem in Kitchener’s Victoria Park neighbourhood, and a number of residents living there are concerned. The community has lobbied local and provincial government officials to address the problem or at least make people aware of the potential danger, but nobody will take responsibility. In Waterloo Region last year, nearly 307, 500 syringes were handed out through public health’s needle syringe program. Just under 103, 200 were returned, according to a report given to regional council in mid-June. Where are the rest of them? The needle program is part of Region of Waterloo Public Health’s harm reduction initiatives. It is very successful, said Lesley Rintche, manager of sexual health and harm reduction programs. Studies show harm reduction programs reduce HIV infection rates and needle sharing. And, she stressed, “it does not increase drug use.” Nor does it decrease a person’s motivation to cut back, she added. The program also boosts the rate of referrals to drug treatment and other health and social services in the community, connecting drug users to much-needed support. “It allows people to make that connection with health care providers,” Rintche said. The needle program is offered at public health’s offices in Waterloo and Cambridge, as well as by four partnering agencies in the community including shelters and a soup kitchen. The Ministry of Health, which requires all public health units provide harm reduction programs, provides $50,000 in annual funding. The intent when needle programs started in Ontario in the late 1980s, and locally in 1995, was people would return one for every one they received. But, Rintche said, that meant people couldn’t get needles if they didn’t have any to exchange. In 2009, nearly 185,600 syringes were given out and 85,800 were returned – nearly half at 46%. In 2013, that dropped to about a third.