DATE: July 9, 2018
SNIP: Cut-price Chinese home insulation is being blamed for a massive rise in emissions of a gas, highly damaging to the Earth’s protective ozone layer.
The Environmental Investigations Agency (EIA) found widespread use of CFC-11 in China, even though the chemical was fully banned back in 2010.
Scientists have been extremely puzzled by the mysterious rise in emissions.
But this report suggests the key source is China’s home construction industry.
Just two months ago, researchers published a study showing that the expected decline in the use of CFC-11 after it was completely banned eight years ago had slowed to a crawl.
CFC-11 makes a very efficient “blowing agent” for polyurethane foam, helping it to expand into rigid thermal insulation that’s used in houses to cut energy bills and reduce carbon emissions.
One seller of CFC-11 estimated that 70% of China’s domestic sales used the illegal gas. The reason is quite simple – CFC-11 is better quality and much cheaper than the alternatives.
The authorities have banned CFC-11 but enforcement of the regulation is poor.
“We were absolutely gobsmacked to find that companies very openly confirmed using CFC-11 while acknowledging it was illegal,” Avipsa Mahapatra from EIA told BBC News.
“The fact that they were so blasé about it, the fact that they told us very openly how pervasive it is in the market, these were shocking findings for us.”
This is a big deal because of the amount of the dodgy chemical being used and its potential to reverse the healing that’s starting to take place in the ozone layer.
China’s polyurethane foam makes up about one-third of global production, so if they are predominantly using an ozone-depleting substance it will set back the closing of the ozone hole by a decade or more.
As well as the ozone layer, CFC-11 has a warming impact. Researchers estimate that if the use of the chemical continues, it would be the equivalent of CO₂ from 16 coal-fired power stations every year!