What are Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]?

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Jun 1, 2022, 6:56

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] are organic compounds. These organic compounds are composed of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. They are hydrocarbons that are fully or partly halogenated. Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] are non-toxic and also non-flammable chemicals.

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] for Cooling Solutions and Sprays

Since the discovery of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] in the 1920s, we have actively used them in cooling appliances like air conditioners and refrigerators. They were the perfect answer to cooling solutions due to the ease of turning them into liquid and back into gas.

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] found further application in various products due to their unique properties. Soon, Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] started being used for sprays easily stored in liquid form and could turn into gas with a little pressure. This convenience gave rise to products like spray insecticides, deodorants, hair sprays, etc.

Impact of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] on the Environment

Studies on CFC decompositions showed concerning results. Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] drift to the stratosphere when released. When exposed to ultraviolet (UV) radiation, they disintegrate and release chlorine atoms. These chlorine atoms react with the ozone molecule breaking it down. This chemical reaction depletes the ozone layer of the Earth's atmosphere.

One CFC molecule takes about seven years to rise to the stratosphere, and once there, it stays there for between 20 to 100 years. During this time, it can destroy over a hundred thousand ozone molecules.

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Impact of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] on Humans

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] as chemical compounds in high concentrations can be dangerous to humans. They are highly toxic and can cause damage to the lungs and the central nervous system. Exposure to high levels of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] can result in cough, dizziness, and breathing difficulties.

The risk of cancer is another health hazard Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] can pose to all living beings on Earth. Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] destroy the ozone layer removing the protection it provides from the harmful UV rays. UV rays cause skin cancer.

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How Global Leaders Saved the World?

When the world realized the extent of the harm Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] were causing, governments of over 190 countries rapidly came together. They agreed to what is known as the Montreal Protocol, the most successful agreement in the world.

According to it, countries had to begin phasing out Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs], reaching a 90% reduction by 1998. It has successfully slowed down the release of CFC emissions into the atmosphere. The success of the Montreal Protocol is attributed to it being very specific in its focus.

The Montreal Protocol became a legally binding agreement after the Kigali amendment. There are mandatory targets that every country must meet according to this. The Montreal Protocol added 100 synthetic chemicals to the Ozone Depleting Substances (ODS) list.

After the studies on the impact of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs], scientists now have a better understanding of the ozone layer. The continued efforts to reduce Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] use have seen the ozone hole has been getting smaller. Without the Montreal Protocol, the ozone hole would have been 40 per cent bigger by 2013.

Active discovery of alternatives to CFS happened since the Montreal Protocol. While there are now alternatives for all the uses of Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs], they still contribute to the greenhouse effect. We are still far away from finding environmentally friendly CFC alternatives.

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FAQs on Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]

Q1: How do Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] impact the environment?

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] destroy the Earth's ozone layer exposing us to harmful radiation.

Q2: How long do Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] stay in the atmosphere?

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] can stay in the atmosphere for 20 to 100 years.

Q3: How do Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] affect humans?

Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] destroy the protective ozone layer of the Earth. This exposes humans to harmful UV radiation, which causes skin cancer.

Q4: What is an alternative to Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs]?

An alternative to Chlorofluorocarbons [CFCs] is dichlorodifluoromethane.