MAY 03, 2020 12:22 PM PDT

Using environmental forensics to identify ozone-depleting chemicals

New research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters highlights some of the shortcomings of the 1987 Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer. Led by researchers at York University and Environment and Climate Change Canada, the study suggests that our CFC replacements, though well-intended, are actually bioaccumulating in the Arctic and causing unexpected harm. 

The 1987 Montreal Protocol was intended to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) because these substances were creating a hole in the ozone layer. While often touted as one of the few successful global initiatives taken to improve environmental crises, these researchers point out that the after-effects of the Montreal Protocol have not been entirely beneficial.

"Our results suggest that global regulation and replacement of other environmentally harmful chemicals contributed to the increase of these compounds in the Arctic, illustrating that regulations can have important unanticipated consequences," says Assistant Professor Cora Young of the Faculty of Science and the paper's corresponding author.

The CFC replacement compounds are called short-chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (scPFCAs) and belong to the perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) class of man-made chemicals used in commercial products and industrial processes. You might have heard of PFAS because of all the negative press they have gotten recently regarding their adverse impact on public and environmental health.

PFAS have been shown to be accumulating in human blood as well as in agricultural crops, which is perhaps unsurprising because current drinking water treatment technology is unable to remove them. Now the researchers behind this study show that scPFCA compounds have accumulated in increasing amounts throughout the Arctic in the last decades. 

"Our measurements provide the first long-term record of these chemicals, which have all increased dramatically over the past few decades," Young comments. "Our work also showed how these industrial sources contribute to the levels in the ice caps."

This paper adds to the call for concern about the use of PFAS as replacements for CFCs, which the authors argue pose a significant threat to both humans and the environment. 

Sources: Eureka Alert, Geophysical Research Letters

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
JUN 15, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
3D-printed bio-ink prints tissues inside the body
JUN 15, 2020
3D-printed bio-ink prints tissues inside the body
Imagine this: 3D-printed body parts that are printed directly in the body. Sounds far out, right? But new research from ...
JUN 18, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Enhanced organic electrochemical transistor better measures extracellular electron transfer
JUN 18, 2020
Enhanced organic electrochemical transistor better measures extracellular electron transfer
In an article recently released in Advanced Science, scientists at the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköpi ...
JUN 30, 2020
Space & Astronomy
How it Rain Diamonds on Neptune
JUN 30, 2020
How it Rain Diamonds on Neptune
For some time, scientists have hypothesized that it may be raining diamonds deep inside Neptune and Uranus. They have no ...
JUN 30, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Axion: Could the Curious Particle "Kill Two Birds with One Stone"
JUN 30, 2020
Axion: Could the Curious Particle "Kill Two Birds with One Stone"
Physicists often ponder in an unusual way: they use one unsolved problem as a hypothetic solution to another, hoping to ...
JUL 23, 2020
Cannabis Sciences
Lab Tests Show Levels of THC Can Rise in CBD Oil During Storage
JUL 23, 2020
Lab Tests Show Levels of THC Can Rise in CBD Oil During Storage
To be federally legal in all states CBD (cannabidiol) oil must contain less than 0.3 percent of the psychoactive ingredi ...
SEP 16, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
SEP 16, 2020
Sub-nanoparticle catalysts prove effective
Researchers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology have developed a technique to control the size and composition of sub-n ...
Loading Comments...