Science

New Study Traces Ozone Depleting Pollution To Rogue Chinese Factories

Ozone Depleting Pollution To Rogue Chinese Factories
JuergenPM / Pixabay

Last year’s study shocked the world revealing that despite all the efforts by the governments worldwide, the ozone layer is still not recovering. Back then, researchers behind the study didn’t want to pinpoint the culprit behind this pollution, however, a new study traced ozone depleting pollution to China, where rogue Chinese factories release illegal gases.

A new study confirms the rise in CFC emissions – gases which are dangerous enough to destroy the ozone layer, and are banned or reduced around the world. The increase in CFC levels were confirmed to a value of 7,000 metric tons emitted annually and originate from northeastern rural China, where the industrial zone is based. These clues were picked up based on detailed atmospheric observations.

According to a new study published in the journal Nature, there is an increase in ozone depleting pollution originating from rogue Chinese factories based in the northeastern provinces of Shandong and Hebei, to the tune of between 40% and 60% when it comes to the rise in CFC-11 emissions. The researchers behind the study suggest that there was no significant rise in CFC-11 emissions in the other East Asian countries, other than China.

Researchers can’t really estimate the economic cost of the new CFC-11 emissions which result from ozone depleting pollution. However, a study from 2009 hinted at the hefty price of $580 billion (in year 2000) in annual health costs, warning that mortalities as a result of acute exposure could exceed 2 million.

According to Dr. Matt Rigby, the lead author of the study, the rise in the CFC-11 emissions was “unexpected,” at the time when he and his team began the research. The chemical CFC-11 was widely used as a refrigerant as well as foam insulation in the 20th century. However, seeing the risks that came with its use, governments banned it as part of the 1987 Montreal Protocol to prevent further ozone depleting pollution.

“CFC-11 was used primarily in foam blowing, so we looked at estimates of the amount of CFC-11 that could be locked up in insulating foams in buildings or refrigerators that were made before 2010, but the quantities were far too small to explain the recent rise,” Rigby said in a statement. “The most likely explanation is that new production has taken place, at least prior to the end of 2017, which is the period covered in our work.”

“Our measurements are sensitive only to the eastern part of China, western Japan and the Korean peninsula and the remainder of the AGAGE network sees parts of North America, Europe and southern Australia,” professor Sunyoung Park added in the statement. “There are large swathes of the world for which we have very little detailed information on the emissions of ozone depleting substances.”

The ozone layer is an essential part of Earth’s stratosphere which works to protect us against ultra-violet radiation coming from the sun. Its further depletion could have devastating consequences for humanity, as we’d be no longer protected from dangerous diseases such as skin cancer, and would continually be exposed to the radiation from the sun.