Ozone-Depleting Chemical Is On The Rise Again But From An Unknown Source

Scientists reported that emissions of a banned ozone-depleting chemical are on the rise again. The event suggested that an unknown source may be secretly producing the chemical, despite the fact that production of these compounds is banned around the world.

The Montreal Protocol is a global agreement signed in late 1980s. The event gathered scientists and policymakers to establish a landmark agreement that would protect the ozone layer by globally banning the production and consumption of ozone-depleting chemicals. The banned chemicals were identified as a considerable factor that thinned the ozone layer and creates a hole over Antarctica, prompting the world to take action. The agreement was a huge success after the ozone hole showed signs of recovery.

Scientists have predicted that the ozone hole could disappear by the year 2075, but several factors could delay the recovery. Concerning that fact, the banned ozone-depleting chemical from an unknown source may slow down the restoration of the ozone layer. Unless the mysterious source is found and stopped, the recovery of the ozone layer could be slowed down by a decade.

The production of trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) was believed to be entirely halted by 2010. Following a study from the journal Nature, the second most damaging of all CFCs has been reportedly started rising again since 2013. The chemical was the second largest contributor to the ozone hole and was used as a refrigerant, for making foam, and for removing stains.

The rising of CFC-11 again was identified by Stephen Montzka and his colleagues at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Colorado. “It’s the most surprising and unexpected observation I’ve made in my 27 years,” Montzka, the lead author of the study, revealed. “I was just shocked by it.”

“In the end, we concluded that it’s most likely that someone may be producing the CFC-11 that’s escaping to the atmosphere. We don’t know why the source might be doing that and if it is being made for some specific purpose, or inadvertently as a side product of some other chemical process,” he said. Measurements tell that the production of the banned chemical is coming from somewhere around East Asia.

The ozone layer filters out harmful UV rays which protects us from the risks of skin cancer and the damaging of marine and plant life.

The news that Montzka delivered is alarming and identifying the mysterious source of the ozone-depleting chemical must be an urgent priority.