Cut-price Chinese home insulation damaging ozone layer

A major threat to the Earth’s ozone layer are chemicals called Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), so much so, that most nations signed up to the Montreal Protocol which promptly banned the worst offending CFCs. Developing countries were given more time to replace the gases, one of which called CFC-11, was expected to be eliminated in China by 2010. However, recent information suggests otherwise.

The ozone is a layer formed in the stratosphere through the interaction of ultraviolet radiation with Oxygen around 15 to 30km above the earth’s surface. Ozone absorbs UV radiation, stopping most of it from reaching the earth’s surface.  This is crucial for the environment as high levels of UV radiation can damage crops, marine life and also lead to the increase in skin cancer in humans.

The banned substance (since 2010), CFC-11, has been found in insulation material throughout China. It is suspected that this is the cause of a massive rise in emissions of gas that are harmful to the protective ozone layer. Researchers from the Environmental Investigations Agency contacted ten different foam manufacturers across China and concluded that the chemical is used in the majority of the polyurethane insulation that the firms produce. One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason is simple, CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than any alternatives.

It is estimated that China’s use of an ozone-depleting substance such as polyurethane foam will set back the closing of the ozone hole by decade or more. As a signatory of the Montreal Protocol, it should be possible to place trade sanctions on China however, this is not expected to happen.


(Source: BBC)


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