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Chemicals that eased one environmental problem may worsen another

Date:
March 16, 2010
Source:
American Chemical Society
Summary:
Chemicals that helped solve a global environmental crisis in the 1990s -- the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer -- may be making another problem -- acid rain -- worse, scientists are reporting. A new study analyzes the effect of chemicals that replaced the ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons once used in aerosol spray cans, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other products.

Forests are being damaged by acid rain, which contains a corrosive ingredient that may result from the breakdown of chemicals introduced to help protect Earth's ozone layer.
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chemicals that helped solve a global environmental crisis in the 1990s -- the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer -- may be making another problem -- acid rain -- worse, scientists are reporting.

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Their study on the chemicals that replaced the ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) once used in aerosol spray cans, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other products, appears in ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry A.

Jeffrey Gaffney, Carrie J. Christiansen, Shakeel S. Dalal, Alexander M. Mebel and Joseph S. Francisco point out that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) emerged as CFC replacements because they do not damage the ozone layer. However, studies later suggested the need for a replacement for the replacements, showing that HCFCs act like super greenhouse gases, 4,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

The new study adds to those concerns, raising the possibility that HCFCs may break down in the atmosphere to form oxalic acid, one of the culprits in acid rain.

They used a computer model to show how HCFCs could form oxalic acid via a series of chemical reactions high in the atmosphere. The model, they suggest, could have broader uses in helping to determine whether replacements for the replacements are as eco-friendly as they appear before manufacturers spend billions of dollars in marketing them.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christiansen et al. Hydroxyl Radical Substitution in Halogenated Carbonyls: Oxalic Acid Formation. The Journal of Physical Chemistry A, 2010; 114 (8): 2806 DOI: 10.1021/jp9045116

Cite This Page:

American Chemical Society. "Chemicals that eased one environmental problem may worsen another." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 March 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100303114001.htm>.
American Chemical Society. (2010, March 16). Chemicals that eased one environmental problem may worsen another. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100303114001.htm
American Chemical Society. "Chemicals that eased one environmental problem may worsen another." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100303114001.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

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