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(Freon®-11) One of the principal greenhouse gases, a gas with absorption bands in the infrared portion of the spectrum. There is extensive evidence showing that a class of synthetic compounds, the chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer. CFCs are molecules that contain one or more atoms of both chlorine and fluorine. In September of l992, the ozone hole over Antarctica was the largest ever recorded and was almost THREE times as large as the area of the U.S. Because CFCs are so unreactive, they do not break down when released into the air in the troposphere where they are spilled. In time, air currents and diffusion carry them into the stratosphere, where, under the influence of UV radiation, they release chlorine radicals that initiate the destruction of ozone. Data collected by NASA have shown conclusively, that there is an inverse relationship between ozone concentration and the chlorine monoxide radical in the stratosphere; ClO is formed by chlorine atom attack on O3. CFCs are very useful inert, nontoxic, nonflammable compounds that had been used for years as coolants and as spray can propellants for aerosol forms of hair sprays and deodorants. They had been unsurpassed as solvents for cleaning electronic microcircuits. Commercially, the most important CFCs are the halogenated methanes, Freon-11 (trichlorofluoromethane) and Freon-12 (dichlorodifluoromethane). Over 50% of asthma inhalers contain chlorofluorocarbns as the solvent and gaseous propellent. These CFCs have relatively recently been prohibited in all products except in those medicinal inhaler dispensers for asthmatics and a few other limited exceptions. In Finland alone there are over a million medicinal dispensers that disperse freons into the atmosphere. This is equal to the freon concentration of the cooling devices in approximately l00,000 refrigerators.

[Buell and Girard, Chemistry, Prentice-Hall, Inc., l994.]

Source: Atmospheric Chemistry Glossary

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