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Four new man-made gases found in atmosphere

Scientists at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have identified four new man-made gases in the atmosphere – all of which are contributing to the destruction of the ozone layer, they maintain.

New research published in the journal Nature Geoscience reveals that more than 74,000 tonnes of three new chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and one new hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) have been released into the atmosphere.

Scientists made the discovery by comparing today’s air samples with air trapped in polar firn snow – which provides a century-old natural archive of the atmosphere. They also looked at air collected between 1978 and 2012 in unpolluted Tasmania.

Measurements show that all four new gases have been released into the atmosphere recently – and that two are significantly accumulating.

Lead researcher Dr Johannes Laube from UEA’s School of Environmental Sciences commented: “Our research has shown four gases that were not around in the atmosphere at all until the 1960s which suggests they are man-made.

"CFCs are the main cause of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. Laws to reduce and phase out CFCs came into force in 1989, followed by a total ban in 2010. This has resulted in successfully reducing the production of many of these compounds on a global scale. However, legislation loopholes still allow some usage for exempted purposes."

Laube added that the source of the new gases is not yet known and “should be investigated”. He indicated possible sources as being feedstock chemicals for insecticide production and solvents for cleaning electronic components.

Picture credit: © Todd Tremblett | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Nature Geoscience | Global | Environment


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