Mysterious Ozone-Destroying Gases Found in Atmosphere

Monday, 10 Mar 2014 06:52 AM

By Elliot Jager

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Four man-made gases of unknown origin that pose a threat to the ozone layer have been discovered by British scientists, the BBC reported.

"Our research has shown four gases that were not around in the atmosphere at all until the 1960s, which suggests they are man-made," Johannes Laube of the Center for Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of East Anglia told the BBC.

So far, 74,000 tons of the dangerous gases have been discharged into the atmosphere. Laube described the situation as "very worrying" and likely to "contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer."

Possible sources of the hazardous gases include feedstock chemicals for insecticide production and solvents for cleaning electronic components, Laube said.

One of the mystifying gases is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), the other three are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

These are similar to CFCs that have been restricted since the mid-1980s and banned since 2010.

The banned CFCs — found in refrigeration and in aerosol propellants — decay the ozone layer, which plays an essential role in blocking ultraviolet rays. Ozone layer damage raises the risk of cancers in humans and reproductive problems in other species.

The original CFC menace was first discovered over Antarctica in 1985 by British scientists who reported a "hole" in the ozone.

If the most worrying of the mysterious gases, CFC-113, turns out to come from agricultural insecticides, scientists say the source needs to identified and taken out of production, the BBC reported.

The problem is that even if the source was discovered and stopped immediately, the gases will stay in the atmosphere for decades to come.

The emissions "are clearly contrary to the intentions behind the Montreal Protocol, and raise questions about the sources of these gases," Laube wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience.

Laube told Newsmax in an email: "We currently cannot rule out the possibility of illegal activities. However, we also found that there are a number of loopholes in the Montreal Protocol, which could mean that everything is entirely legal.

"For instance, two of the gases are being used as intermediates in the production of air-conditioning chemicals, which is not covered by the protocol. And one is a chemical feedstock to produce insecticides, which needs to be reported to the parties of the protocol, but is not controlled either."

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