When Mario Molina
was a young boy living in Mexico City, he loved science so much that
he turned one of the rooms in his family´s house into a lab. He spent
hours there playing with chemistry sets. Little did he dream as a boy
that one day he would make discoveries that would help protect the world's
atmosphere, and he would become famous.
While he was fascinated by chemicals, Molina knew as a young man that
chemicals can be dangerous, too. In his lab as a graduate student, he
began to investigate "chlorofluorocarbons" — known as CFCs — a group
of chemicals used in spray cans, air conditioners, and other items you
would find in any house. He and Professor Sherwood Rowland discovered
that when these gases enter the atmosphere, they break apart. The chlorine
atoms from them were destroying part of the ozone layer. This layer filters out most of the sun's harmful ultraviolet
rays, protecting life on earth.
Few paid attention to the scientists' discoveries at first, and others
wouldn't believe them. Then in 1984, scientists found a huge hole in
the ozone layer over Antarctica. Molina, Rowland, and another scientist,
Paul Crutzen, showed how and why the CFC gases were eating up the ozone
layer. People knew something had to be done. In 1987, countries all
over the world agreed to ban the use of CFCs within a certain time period.
Other chemicals still threaten the ozone layer. It will take some time
to eliminate all of them and for the ozone layer to mend itself.
In 1995, Molina and the other two scientists won the Nobel Prize in
Chemistry for their discoveries. Molina donated $200,000 of his Nobel
Prize winnings to help young scientists around the world do research
on the environment. Now a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of
Technology in Boston, Molina teaches others who want to become scientists.
He believes that scientists and other people all over the world will
have to work hard together to save our environment.