Benefits of the CFC
The CFC phase-out is already producing benefits for the environment, businesses, and individuals.
First, it can protect the Ozone Layer. The chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) phase-out is an important turning point in the recovery of the ozone layer. Currently, we are experiencing depletion of approximately 5 percent at mid-latitudes, but if no action had been taken to limit CFCs, ozone depletion at mid-latitudes would eventually have reached 20 percent or more. Because of the phase-out, CFCs are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. Scientists predict that maximum CFC levels will occur before the turn of the century. If international agreements are adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover around 2050.
Second, it can reduce Health Risks. The phase-out of CFCs is expected to have direct health benefits over the next century, including reduced incidence of skin cancer and cataracts, decreased risks to human immune systems, and increased protection of plant and animal life from excessive UV exposure. A United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) study shows that a sustained 1 percent decrease in stratospheric ozone will result in about a 2 percent increase in the incidence of non-melanoma skin cancer, which can be fatal. With the successful phase-out of CFCs, however, EPA expects 295 million fewer cases of this form of skin cancer over the next century.
Third, it leads to New Technologies. The CFC phase-out prompted research into alternative methods for cleaning applications in electronic assemblies and precision parts. Users often found that the need for chemicals during cleaning processes was reduced or even eliminated, while maintaining product quality and reducing costs. Precision ball bearings, medical devices, and sophisticated electronics components are now being produced using aqueous cleaning. New "no-clean" technologies eliminate the cleaning process altogether for printed circuit boards.
Fourth, it can save energy. The CFC phase-out provided an impetus to develop and invest in a new generation of energy efficient air-conditioning and refrigeration equipment. Electric utilities have acknowledged this benefit by providing financial incentives for installing energy-efficient equipment. Aside from substantial lifetime energy and dollar savings, equipment upgrades also improve occupant comfort, system reliability, and operation and maintenance.
Fifth, it can prevent pollution. The energy savings from equipment upgrades mean that less fossil fuels are burned at the power plant, leading to reduced emissions of air pollutants including carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and sulfur dioxide (SO2). These pollutants are responsible for global warming and acid rain. By 1998, chiller conversions and replacements are estimated to avoid emissions of 4 million tons of CO2, and 34,000 tons of SO2. The reduction in SO2 represents the annual emissions of one and a half-large coal fired power plant. (11)