Increasing emissions of harmful chemicals are threatening the recovery of the ozone layer, undoing decades of progress. The new threats come from chemicals that are predominantly being emitted by China, as the country's industry and economy continues to grow (stock)

Chemicals used in Chinese industry destroying the ozone

Increasing emissions of harmful chemicals are threatening the recovery of the ozone layer, undoing decades of progress.

The new threat comes from chemicals that are predominantly being emitted by China, as the country’s industry and economy continues to grow.

The substances are used for everything from paint stripping and agriculture, to the production of pharmaceuticals and PVC.

Researchers say their continued use could delay the closing of the ozone hole by up to 30 years.

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Increasing emissions of harmful chemicals are threatening the recovery of the ozone layer, undoing decades of progress. The new threats come from chemicals that are predominantly being emitted by China, as the country's industry and economy continues to grow (stock)

Increasing emissions of harmful chemicals are threatening the recovery of the ozone layer, undoing decades of progress. The new threats come from chemicals that are predominantly being emitted by China, as the country’s industry and economy continues to grow (stock)

DICHLOROMETHANE

Emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals in places like China are especially damaging.

Cold-air surges in East Asia can quickly carry industrial pollution into the tropics, where they are uplifted into the stratosphere.

One of the new threats is dichloromethane, a substance with uses varying from paint stripping to agricultural fumigation and the production of pharmaceuticals.

The amount of this substance in the atmosphere decreased in the 1990s and early 2000s, but over the past decade has become around 60 per cent more abundant.

The team set out to measure air pollution in East Asia to find out where the increase in dichloromethane was coming from and if it could affect the ozone layer.

Scientists collected air samples on the ground in Malaysia and Taiwan, in the region of the South China Sea, between 2012 and 2014, and shipped them back to the UK for analysis.

Dichloromethane was found in large amounts, and so was dichloroethane, an ozone-depleting substance used to make PVC.

Researchers from the University of East Anglia (UEA) revealed the unexpected and growing danger in a new study, which raises the alarm over ever-increasing emissions.

Thirty years ago, the Montreal Protocol was agreed to phase-out the production of substances destroying the ozone layer.

Chemicals not regulated by the treaty are responsible for the impending environmental disaster.

The substances in question were not considered damaging before as they were generally thought to be too short-lived to reach the stratosphere in large quantities.

But the team’s paper shows how they can be carried up into the stratosphere and deplete the ozone layer over time.

Lead researcher Dr David Oram, from UEA’s school of Environmental Sciences, said: ‘Ozone depletion is a well-known phenomenon and, thanks to the success of the Montreal Protocol, is widely perceived as a problem solved.

‘The treaty has helped the layer begin the slow process of healing, lessening the impact to human health from increased exposure to damaging solar radiation.

‘But our research shows that increasing emissions of ozone-destroying substances are threatening this recovery.’

Emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals in places like China are especially damaging because of cold-air surges in East Asia, that can quickly carry industrial pollution into the tropics.

Experts collected air samples in Malaysia and Taiwan, in the region of the South China Sea, between 2012 and 2014, and shipped them back to the UK. Dichloromethane was found in large amounts, as shown in this graphic, with darker colours indicating higher concentrations

Experts collected air samples in Malaysia and Taiwan, in the region of the South China Sea, between 2012 and 2014, and shipped them back to the UK. Dichloromethane was found in large amounts, as shown in this graphic, with darker colours indicating higher concentrations

Thirty years ago, the Montreal Protocol was agreed to phase-out the production of substances destroying the ozone layer. Chemicals not regulated by the treaty are responsible for the impending environmental disaster. This Nasa image shows the growing hole in the ozone layer

Thirty years ago, the Montreal Protocol was agreed to phase-out the production of substances destroying the ozone layer. Chemicals not regulated by the treaty are responsible for the impending environmental disaster. This Nasa image shows the growing hole in the ozone layer

It is here that air is most likely to be uplifted into the stratosphere, reaching the ozone layer before they degrade and while they can still cause damage.

One of the new threats is dichloromethane, a substance with uses varying from paint stripping to agricultural fumigation and the production of pharmaceuticals.

The amount of this substance in the atmosphere decreased in the 1990s and early 2000s, but over the past decade has become around 60 per cent more abundant.

The team set out to measure air pollution in East Asia to find out where the increase in dichloromethane was coming from and if it could affect the ozone layer.

The team's paper shows how these chemicals can be carried up into the stratosphere and deplete the ozone layer over time. This image shows a research station in Malaysia whose measurements were used in the study

The team’s paper shows how these chemicals can be carried up into the stratosphere and deplete the ozone layer over time. This image shows a research station in Malaysia whose measurements were used in the study

Data collected from a passenger aircraft that flew over Southeast Asia between December 2012 and January 2014 showed that the substances weren't only present at ground level, shown here coloured by date

Data collected from a passenger aircraft that flew over Southeast Asia between December 2012 and January 2014 showed that the substances weren’t only present at ground level, shown here coloured by date

Scientists collected air samples on the ground in Malaysia and Taiwan, in the region of the South China Sea, between 2012 and 2014, and shipped them back to the UK for analysis.

They routinely monitor around 50 ozone-depleting chemicals in the atmosphere, some of which are now in decline as a direct consequence of the Montreal Protocol.

Dichloromethane was found in large amounts, and so was dichloroethane, an ozone-depleting substance used to make PVC.

China is the largest producer of PVC, which is used in many construction materials, and its production in the country has increased rapidly in the past couple of decades.

Data collected from a passenger aircraft that flew over Southeast Asia between December 2012 and January 2014 showed that the substances weren’t only present at ground level.

The full findings of the study were published today in the journal Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics.

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