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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

CFC's Responsible for ozone depletion?

GreenWatch reader Wallace wrote in this week, questioning what has become the common assumption that CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) deplete the ozone layer.
"Thank you for bringing up the subject of CFC propelled medications in your article.

This is a serious health problem for a great many people. Not only are the new inhalers less effective, they cause irritation that is not good for the patient and they are much more expensive.

The “do-gooders” in congress are causing egregious harm to those who need the inhalers and they are doing it absolutely needlessly. They are too proud to admit what many of us now know. CFC’s do not harm the “ozone layer” because they can never reach it. Scientists now know that the thinning of the ozone at the poles is a direct result of material ejected from the sun in solar flares entering the atmosphere at the Earth’s magnetic poles combined with the fact that less ozone is produced in polar regions.

The so called “ozone layer” (actually just an area of higher ozone levels) is produced by radiation from the sun interacting with oxygen (O2) in the outer atmosphere. The ozone molecules then migrate down to lower levels because they are heavier than O2 molecules. Eventually they disintegrate before they reach lower levels because ozone is unstable. Two ozone (O3) molecules will react to make three O2 molecules or they will react with some other molecule, like chlorine (which is constantly being released from the oceans).

The stratosphere (so named because it lacks the strong currents of the troposphere and therefore “stratifies”) tends to separate air into its constituent gases in layers. Carbon dioxide, for example, is a little heavier than oxygen (O2) and nitrogen (N2) molecules (1.38 times as heavy as O2) and its presence (as a percentage) declines with altitude until it becomes undetectable. This is important because CFC molecules are much heavier than carbon dioxide. In fact, the most common CFC (R-12) is almost THREE TIMES as heavy as carbon dioxide and nearly FOUR TIMES heavier than oxygen (O2) MOLECULES.

If carbon dioxide can’t get up to the ozone layer, how can the heavier CFC’s get there? In fact, CFC’s have never been detected at those high altitudes.

CFC’s are still some of the very best refrigerants and their being phased out has cost the public billions of dollars.

Just one more way that our Congress is looking out for our best interest!"
(PG): I cannot vouch for the veracity of Wallace's claims, but I am intrigued. Any GreenWatch readers know more about this issue? Email me at greenwatchamericaATgmailDOTcom.