Monday, November 29, 1999

Chemicals that fix one ecological problem worsen another

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Washington, June 17 (IANS) Chemicals that helped fix a global ecological crisis in the 1990s - the hole in Earth's protective ozone layer, for instance - may be raising another problem such as acid rain, says scientists.Jeffrey Gaffney, chemist at the University of Arkansas, along with colleagues Carrie J. Christiansen, Shakeel S. Dalal, Alexander M. Mebel and Joseph S. Francisco point out that hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) emerged as chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) replacements because they do not damage the ozone layer.However, studies later suggested the need for a replacement for the replacements, showing that HCFCs act like super greenhouse gases, 4,500 times more potent than carbon dioxide.The new study adds to those concerns, raising the possibility that HCFCs may break down in the atmosphere to form oxalic acid, one of the culprits in acid rain.They used a computer model to show how HCFCs could form oxalic acid via a series of chemical reactions high in the air.The model, they suggest, could have broader uses in helping to determine whether replacements for the replacements are as eco-friendly as they appear before manufacturers spend billions of dollars in marketing them, says a release of the American Chemical Society (ACS).Their study on the chemicals that replaced the ozone-destroying CFCs once used in aerosol spray cans, air conditioners, refrigerators, and other products, appears in ACS' Journal of Physical Chemistry.

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