Chemicals leaking from old equipment are delaying the recovery of the ozone layer, scientists say

Polluting emissions from old fridges, foam insulation and outdated air conditioning units are slowing the recovery of the ozone layer over Antarctica.  Madeleine Cuff discusses latest developments in an article on the inews website.

 

Emissions from old fridges and air conditioning units slowing recovery of ozone

Polluting emissions from old fridges, foam insulation and outdated air conditioning units are slowing the recovery of the ozone layer over Antarctica, scientists have discovered.

Goods manufactured using now-outlawed chemicals are leaking huge volumes of harmful gases into the atmosphere.

That is slowing the recovery of the ozone, a thin part of the Earth’s atmosphere that provides protection against the Sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays.

In 1987 governments jointly agreed to phase-out the use of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), which were rapidly damaging the ozone layer.

Concerns for the ozone layer

But they allowed fridges, air conditioning units and insulation already manufactured to remain, believing they did not pose a significant threat.

Although the ozone layer is slowly repairing itself, ongoing CFC emissions are slowing the recovery. MIT experts warned about 2.1m metric tons of CFCs is stored up in old equipment around the world. If left unchecked, these CFC banks could delay the recovery of the ozone hole by six years and add the equivalent of nine billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

“Wherever these CFC banks reside, we should consider recovering and destroying them as responsibly as we can,” said Susan Solomon, Professor of Environmental Studies at MIT.

“Some banks are easier to destroy than others. For instance, before you tear a building down, you can take careful measures to recover the insulation foam and bury it in a landfill, helping the ozone layer recover faster and perhaps taking off a chunk of global warming as a gift to the planet.”

There is good news. Last year China was revealed as the source of a mysterious spike in CFC emissions, with factories illegally producing insulation using the banned chemicals. Those emissions have now largely been clamped down on by the Chinese government, MIT researchers said. “There doesn’t seem to be any further cheating going on,” said Solomon. “If there is, it’s very small.”

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