Emissions of banned ozone-eating chemical somehow are rising

This undated photo provided by NOAA in May 2018 shows aurora australis near the South Pole Atmospheric Research Observatory in Antarctica. When a hole in the ozone formed over Antarctica, countries around the world in 1987 agreed to phase out several types of ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Production was banned, emissions fell and the hole shriveled. But according to a study released on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, scientists say since 2013, there’s more of a banned CFC going into the atmosphere. (Patrick Cullis/NOAA via AP)
This undated photo provided by NOAA in May 2018 shows Mauna Loa Observatory scientist Aidan Colton, a NOAA employee who fills flasks and maintains instruments at the MLO in Hawaii. According to a study released on Wednesday, May 16, 2018, scientists say since 2013, there’s more of a banned chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) going into the atmosphere, and measurements from a dozen monitors around the world, including the MLO, suggest the emissions are coming from somewhere around China, Mongolia and the Koreas. (James Elkins/NOAA via AP)

WASHINGTON — Something strange is happening with a now-banned chemical that eats away at Earth's protective ozone layer: Scientists say there's more of it — not less — going into the atmosphere and they don't know where it is coming from.

When a hole in the ozone formed over Antarctica, countries around the world in 1987 agreed to phase out several types of ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Production was banned, emissions fell and the hole slowly shrank.

But starting in 2013, emissions of the second most common kind started rising, according to a study in Wednesday's journal Nature . The chemical, called CFC11, was used for making foam, degreasing stains and for refrigeration.

"It's the most surprising and unexpected observation I've made in my 27 years" of measurements, said study lead author Stephen Montzka, a research chemist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"Emissions today are about the same as it was nearly 20 years ago," he said.

Countries have reported close to zero production of the chemical since 2006 but the study found about 14,300 tons (13,000 metric tons) a year has been released since 2013. Some seeps out of foam and buildings and machines, but scientists say what they're seeing is much more than that.

Measurements from a dozen monitors around the world suggest the emissions are coming from somewhere around China, Mongolia and the Koreas, according to the study. The chemical can be a byproduct in other chemical manufacturing, but it is supposed to be captured and recycled.

Either someone's making the banned compound or it's sloppy byproducts that haven't been reported as required, Montzka said.

An outside expert, Ross Salawitch, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, is less diplomatic. He calls it "rogue production," adding that if it continues "the recovery of the ozone layer would be threatened."

High in the atmosphere, ozone shields Earth from ultraviolet rays that cause skin cancer, crop damage and other problems.

Nature removes 2 percent of the CFC11 out of the air each year, so concentrations of the chemical in the atmosphere are still falling, but at a slower rate because of the new emissions, Montzka said. The chemical stays in the air for about 50 years.

___

Follow Seth Borenstein on Twitter at @borenbears . His work can be found here .

___

The Associated Press Health & Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Must Read

Energy pick vows to boost agency he had pledged to eliminate

Jan 19, 2017

Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, tapped by President-elect Donald Trump to head the Energy Department, vowed to be an advocate for an agency he once pledged to eliminate and promised to rely on federal scientists, including those who work on climate change

National Park Service staff step up campaign against Trump

Jan 25, 2017

The National Park Service employees' Twitter campaign against President Donald Trump has spread to other parks

Genes may help grocery tomatoes catch up to heirloom taste

Jan 26, 2017

Scientists have figured out how to add much needed taste to the bland, mass-produced grocery tomato

Kick Connect publishes a comprehensive overview of the latest news and theories on science & technology. We also report accurate news with a unique perspective on the world around us.

Contact us: sales@kickconnect.com