“We thrive and survive on planet earth as a single human family. And one of our main responsibilities is to leave to successor generations a sustainable future.” - UN Secretary-General Kofi A. Annan

Aquinas College

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC's)

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CFC's were developed in the 1930's and were used by industry for a variety of purposes, such as coolants, aerosol propellants, and cleaning solvents. These chemical compounds are non-toxic and non-reactive with most other chemicals, rendering them extremely useful to industry. However, CFC's tend to rise into the stratosphere (a layer of the atmosphere about 25 miles up) where they come into contact with intense sunlight. The sun's rays actually break the chemical bonds. leaving a very reactive free chlorine atom. The free atom then literally pulls apart the ozone molecules (O3) which is why we now have a hole in the stratospheric ozone. In addition to destroying the ozone layer, CFC's are heat-trapping compounds (similar to Carbon Dioxide and other greenhouse gases) and contribute to global warming on Earth. In 1973, the danger of CFC's and related compounds became clear, leading to the Montreal Protocol in 1987. Many nations signed this agreement, pledging to reduce CFC production in the future.

With the phase-out of CFC’s, industry was left with a call for a similar compound. CFC’s were replaced by Hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFC’s) because HCFC’s are more likely to react with compounds in the troposphere (the layer of the atmosphere where people live and breath). The assumption is that less HCFC’s will reach the stratosphere and as a result, less of the ozone will be destroyed. It is a slower destruction, but the destruction still continues. There is still no safe alternative to CFC's or HCFC’s and until that day comes, the destruction of the ozone will continue.

Links

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

This EPA provides information about the science of ozone depletion, information about the regulatory approach to protecting the ozone layer, and information on alternatives to ozone-depleting substances, as well as information on a number of other topics. Check it out!

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