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Chlorofluorocarbons and Ozone Depletion

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  • Last Updated : 30 Jun, 2022
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Scientific innovation is advancing at a fast rate. Pollution is also rising as a result of this. Pollution is causing changes in the earth’s atmosphere. The majority of pollutants are produced by human activities such as fuel combustion, industrial operations, motor vehicles, and so on. Carbon dioxide, CO, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, small solid particles of fuel, CFC, HFC, and other hazardous chemical compounds are emitted into the environment. Increased forest fires and volcanic explosions are exacerbating the issue. CFC is one of the most serious pollutants. Let us go through chlorofluorocarbons in depth.

Chlorofluorocarbons

Chlorofluorocarbon is a man-made chemical substance that does not exist in nature. They are synthetic gases. It is a volatile derivative of methane, ethane, and propane that includes carbon, chlorine, and fluorine.

Furthermore, we may detect it in the atmosphere since it lasts a long period. Chlorofluorocarbons in short are also called CFC and exhibit the following properties:

  • The production of CFCs is commonly referred to as freon.
  • CFC emissions have grown dramatically during the last 50 years.
  • It is a colorless, odorless, chemically inert gas.
  • CFC is also one of the gases that contribute to the greenhouse impact.
  • It is especially dangerous due to its damaging interactions with ozone particles, which shield the planet from UV radiations.

Sources of Chlorofluorocarbons

CFCs are mostly found in a few specialized goods like:

  1. Aircraft halon: Some countries’ aviation sectors continue to use halon-based fire suppression systems. It is also a CFC-containing coolant. To dispose of this harmful chemical or recycle the material, conclusive steps must be taken.
  2. Aerosol sprays: CFC-containing gases are used in aerosol cans and propellant liquid. This industry is gradually transitioning to less hazardous hydrocarbons. CFCs, on the other hand, have a life lifetime of 50 to 100 years and continue to have an influence on the harm done in prior decades.
  3. Air conditioners and Refrigerators: CFCs are most often emitted via refrigerants. The coolant used in refrigerators, air conditioners and automobiles that is not properly disposed of will leak CFCs into the atmosphere. The coolant will either evaporate or enter the soil, polluting both with CFCs.
  4. Rogue CFCs: The older and expired refrigerants and aerosol cans are thrown in the open environment since there is no suitable disposal technique or recycling process in place. CFCs seep from them, polluting the environment further.

Examples of Chlorofluorocarbons

  • Dichlorodifluoromethane, CF2Cl2 (commonly known as CFC-12), is an example of a refrigerant CFC.
  • Another formerly common CFC is trichlorofluoromethane, CFCl3 (CFC-11), which boils at 24°C and was originally employed as the propellant in over half of all aerosol cans used worldwide.

What is an Ozone Layer?

The ozone layer is an area of the earth’s stratosphere that contains high concentrations of ozone and shields the planet from the sun’s damaging UV radiation.

The ozone layer is located in the lower atmosphere of the Earth. It has the ability to absorb around 97-99 percent of the damaging UV radiations emitted by the sun, which can affect life on Earth. Millions of individuals would acquire skin disorders and have compromised immune systems if the ozone layer did not exist.

However, scientists have found an ozone hole above Antarctica. This has focused their attention on different environmental concerns and the actions that may be taken to address them. Chlorofluorocarbons, carbon tetrachloride, methyl bromide, and hydrochlorofluorocarbons are the primary causes of the ozone hole. 

Ozone Layer Depletion

The progressive thinning of the earth’s ozone layer in the upper atmosphere caused by the discharge of chemical compounds containing gaseous bromine or chlorine from factories or other human activities is known as Ozone layer depletion.

Ozone layer depletion is the weakening of the upper atmosphere’s ozone layer. This occurs when chlorine and bromine atoms in the atmosphere react with ozone, destroying the ozone molecules. One chlorine atom may destroy 100,000 ozone molecules. It is destroyed faster than it is generated. 

When some chemicals are exposed to high levels of UV radiation, they emit chlorine and bromine, which leads to the depletion of the ozone layer. These substances are referred to as Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS). Chlorofluorocarbon, carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and methyl chloroform are all ozone-depleting compounds containing chlorine. 

Halons, methyl bromide and hydro bromofluorocarbons are ozone-depleting bromine-containing compounds. The most common ozone-depleting chemical is chlorofluorocarbons. Only when the chlorine atom interacts with another molecule does it react with ozone.

Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion

The ozone layer’s depletion has a negative impact on the environment. Let us look at the primary consequences of ozone layer depletion on humans and the environment.

  • Health Consequences: Because of the ozone layer depletion, people will be directly exposed to the sun’s damaging UV radiations. This might lead to significant health problems in people, such as skin disorders, cancer, sunburns, cataracts, premature aging, and a weakened immune system.
  • Effects on Animals: Animals get skin and eye cancer as a result of direct exposure to UV radiation.
  • Effects on Marine Life: Exposure to damaging UV radiation has a significant impact on planktons. These are at the top of the aquatic food chain. If the planktons are killed, the creatures in the food chain suffer as well.
  • Environmental Consequences: Plants may experience reduced growth, blooming, and photosynthesis as a result of strong UV radiation.

Sample Problems

Problem 1: How can we reduce chlorofluorocarbons in our environment?

Solution: 

Purchase air conditioning and refrigeration equipment that does not include CFCs as a refrigerant. Purchase aerosol goods that do not include CFCs as propellants. To avoid and limit refrigerant leakage, examine and maintain air-conditioning and refrigeration units on a regular basis.

Problem 2: List some commonly used CFCs.

Solution: 

Following are the two commonly used and well known CFCs:

  1. Dichlorodifluoromethane, CF2Cl2 (commonly known as CFC-12), is an example of a refrigerant CFC.
  2. Another formerly common CFC is trichlorofluoromethane, CFCl3 (CFC-11), which boils at 24°C and was originally employed as the propellant in over half of all aerosol cans used worldwide.

Problem 3: Why are CFCs banned?

Solution: 

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a class of odorless synthetic compounds. CFCs have been prohibited since 1996 because they deplete the earth’s ozone layer. The depletion of the Ozone Layer will have a negative influence on the earth’s biodiversity. Excessive radiation striking the Earth’s surface will ruin agricultural production and even plant life. It will even result in skin cancer.

Problem 4: What are some preventive methods that must be used to reduce Ozone Layer Depletion?

Solution: 

Following are some preventive methods that must be used to reduce Ozone Layer Depletion:

  1. Reduce your usage of ozone-depleting chemicals.
  2. Vehicle usage should be minimized to the greatest extent feasible.
  3. Use Eco-Friendly Cleaning Supplies
  4. Nitrous Oxide use should be prohibited.

Problem 5: What are the causes of Ozone Layer Depletion?

Solution: 

It has been discovered that the ozone layer is influenced by natural factors such as sunspots and stratospheric winds. However, these have a negligible impact on ozone layer depletion, amounting to less than 1% to 2%, and hence their effects are transient. Some significant volcanic eruptions have also contributed to the ozone layer’s depletion. 

Human activities, on the other hand, are the primary cause of ozone layer depletion. It arises as a result of the excessive usage of man-made chemicals such as bromine and chlorine, which are released from man-made compounds such as: chlorofluorocarbon, carbon tetrachloride, hydrochlorofluorocarbons, and methyl chloroform, all of which include chlorine.

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