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Atmospheric Chemistry

Levels of ozone-depleting HCFC-141b rise in atmosphere

by Cheryl Hogue
May 6, 2022 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 100, Issue 16


Chemical structure of HCFC-141b.

Countries are reporting that production and use of the ozone-depleting substance hydrochlorofluorocarbon-141b (HCFC-141b) has fallen since 2013. But the amount of HCFC-141b in the atmosphere rose between 2017 and 2021, an international team of scientists says in a preprint paper that is being peer-reviewed (Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss. 2022, DOI: 10.5194/acp-2022-298). The researchers examined atmospheric measurements from east Asia, Australia, northwestern Europe, and the US—areas that accounted for about a third of global HCFC-141b emissions in 2020. The team determined that in these regions, releases of the chemical declined each year from 2017 to 2021. But average global concentrations increased in the same period. If the government reports on declining production and use of HCFC-141b are correct, there are two likely causes for the global increase, the researchers suggest. One is that HCFC-141b is leaking from discarded appliances that are insulated with plastic foam puffed up with the chemical. The other is that the substance is being produced and dispersed to the environment through industrial activities such as cleaning of electronics—but those practices aren’t being reported.


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