If, like me, you were born in the 1980s, you will remember when CFCs were banned and we stopped using certain hair sprays and spray deodorants, and replacing our refrigerators with non-CFC emitting versions. This was due to a ban on CFCs (chlorofluorocarbons, a family of chemicals that saw widespread use in refrigeration and as propellants in aerosol cans), put in place by the 1987 Montreal Protocol – an environmental treaty signed by almost every country that banned the production of these ozone-depleting chemicals from 2010.
It has been known, since the 1980s, that CFCs played a large role in destroying the ozone layer, a thin part of the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs most of the ultraviolet radiation from the Sun. Where the ozone layer is damaged, it allows more harmful UV radiation through to reach the earth’s surface, and we all know that UV damage can lead to sun burn, damaged skin and even skin cancer.
Since the ban was put in place, the levels of ozone-harming CFC chemicals in the atmosphere had been on a steady decline. That was until in 2018, a study revealed that “the concentration of CFCs in the atmosphere wasn’t falling as quickly as we would expect”. That’s when an international team of researchers, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and environmental journalists teamed up to uncover where this new source of CFC was coming from. Using air monitoring stations in South Korea and Japan, plus a bit of detective work, the team traced the chemical back to the production of home insulation in Eastern China.
Thanks to this discovery, researchers now say the recovery of the ozone layer is now “back on track”.