Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) react with the ozone layer, causing a hole that exposes the surface of the earth to stronger UV radiation. Unfortunately, CFCs are also extremely useful for many purposes, and are used in refrigerants, aerosols and solvents. Since 1987, the Montreal Protocol has drastically reduced the amount of CFCs released into the atmosphere. You can also do your part as an individual or business owner through careful disposal methods and product choices.
Most modern household products do not contain CFCs, but some may. Many aerosols, cleaning solvents and foam blowing agents (such as fire extinguishers) used to contain CFCs and occasionally still do. The United Nations Environment Programme releases a list of chemical products that contain substances that deplete the ozone layer, as well as alternative products that do not harm the ozone layer. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also has a searchable database containing environmental information for products.
Safe Appliance Disposal
Refrigerators and freezers, especially those manufactured before 1995, often contain CFCs. Air-conditioning units and dehumidifiers may also contain hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which deplete the ozone layer. Safe disposal of old appliances prevents CFCs and HCFCs from being released into the environment. You may be able to a find free or inexpensive safe disposal service by contacting your local utility company. If the appliance still works, you may be able to find a bounty program that will pick up the appliance free of charge and safely redistribute it to somebody who can use it. A more expensive but still safe option involves hiring an EPA-certified technician to remove any dangerous refrigerants from the appliance and then paying for disposal through a local recycling program or garbage dump.
CFCs are currently more common in industrial products than household products. If you own a business or work in the manufacturing industry, search the EPA and United Nations Environment Programme databases for safe CFC-free products. Employees can also recommend safe products to employers and make others aware of the negative effects of ozone-depleting substances. If you sell items manufactured elsewhere, choose items made without the use of CFCs whenever possible.
Encourage legislation that reduces CFC emissions. The National Resources Defense Council also recommends writing to companies that you or your business patronize to encourage them to reduce use of CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. Let them know the reasons behind your concern, such as ozone depletion and increased skin cancer risk, and then explain that you are making an effort to purchase products without harmful chemicals. Purchasing power can greatly affect ingredients in products and chemicals used in manufacturing.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Ozone Science: The Facts Behind the Phaseout
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Safe Disposal of Refrigerated Household Appliances: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- Australian Government: Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS)
- United Nations Environment Programme: Inventory of Trade Names of Chemical Products Containing Ozone Depleting Substances and their Alternatives
- United Nations Environment Programme: Handbook for the Montreal Protocol on Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer