Oh, the Irony

When countries began phasing out ozone-depleting CFCs, they came up with a replacement known as the HFC, or hydrofluorocarbon. HFCs don't destroy ozone. But HFCs might prove to be a rather detrimental savior. A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows they might be contributing to global warming [source: Velasquez-Manoff].

Can We Patch The Ozone Hole?

If we could patch the hole over Antarctica, the natural ozone-oxygen cycle might fall back into balance. But unfortunately, we can't make more ozone to patch the hole. It takes a lot of energy to make ozone molecules -- in the atmosphere, the intense energy of the sun drives most of the work. But down at ground level, it's not a practical proposition. Plus, ozone is such a dangerous pollutant at ground level, it might not be wise to produce it even if it were easier to do.

To repair the ozone layer, then, we must stop releasing ozone-depleting compounds into the atmosphere. In 1987, more than 180 countries agreed to address the problem in the Montreal Protocol. In signing the protocol, those countries agreed to phase out ozone-depleting chemicals like CFCs, halons and carbon tetrachloride. In the United States, any products containing these compounds carry warning labels, and they can only be used if there is no suitable, non-ozone-depleting product available.

Scientists hope that, if these compounds are completely discontinued, the ozone layer will return to normal by 2050 [source: EPA].

In the meantime, wear sunscreen, immediately repair leaky cooling appliances, and be sure to only use HVAC repair services that are certified to properly deal with the refrigerant they remove.

For more information on the ozone hole, CFCs and related topics, look over the links on the next page.