Ozone-depleting chemical 'tracked down to Chinese industry'

A mysterious rise in emissions of ozone-depleting gas has been traced to Chinese plastic foam factories, a green campaign group claimed in a report published on Monday. The scientific study that revealed the surge estimated emissions between 8,000 and 18,000 tonnes over the same period.

The thing that baffled scientists was that after a constant drop in the atmospheric CFC-11 concentrations between 2002 and 2012, the rate of decline has slowed down by around 50 percent since 2012, suggesting unreported new production.

There were suspicions among researchers that new supplies were being made somewhere in East Asia. Rumors abounded on the source. There was a concern among some experts that the chemical was being used to secretly enrich uranium for use in nuclear weapons. The reality founds to be more about isolation than proliferation.

CFC-11 has 4,660 times the heat-trapping ability of carbon dioxide. Now, scientists have been able to contact the executives of Chinese companies involved in the production of polyurethane foam for thermal insulation of houses in 10 different provinces.

Video by the EIA on the CFC-11 investigation in China. It turned out that the firms use CFC-11 as a "foaming" additives, which is much cheaper than its alternatives. Even as the CFC phase-out began in the 80's China was already the leading producer of the chemical. "The fact that they were so blasé about it, the fact that they told us very openly how pervasive it is in the market, these were shocking findings for us".

Montzka added that it was possible that someone else is also still producing CFC-11.

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The chemical is a strong ozone killer and has been strictly banned since 2010. CFC-11 is used in the production of rigid polyurethane (PU) foam insulation.

The ozone layer that shields life from the sun's cancer-causing ultraviolet rays is showing its first sign of thickening after years of risky depletion, a United Nations study said on Wednesday. Researchers estimate that if the use of the chemical continues, it would be the equivalent of CO₂ from 16 coal-fired power stations every year!

China, a signatory of the Montreal Protocol, says it successfully ended the industrial practice of using CFCs in 2007. However, since the protocol was signed in 1987, this weapon of last resort has never been used and it's not expected in this case. The production of CFC-11 is 99% in China that told by EIA Team. "It requires a comprehensive nationwide intelligence-led investigation and higher penalties throughout the sector that fit the crime".

The report comes ahead of a working group of the Montreal Protocol in Vienna from July 11-14, where the issue of rogue CFC-11 emissions is likely to be on the agenda.

A reduced ozone layer means that the Earth is more vulnerable to the unsafe UVB radiation from outer space. In turn, this will enhance the flow of ultraviolet radiation from the sun, which will lead to an increase in mortality of humans and animals, including due to malignant neoplasms of the skin.

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