Benefits of the CFC Phaseout
The CFC phaseout is producing benefits for the environment, businesses, and individuals. This fact sheet explains some of these benefits. Several case studies of successful conversions to alternatives are listed also.
Protection of the Ozone Layer
The chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) production phaseout is an important turning point in the recovery of the ozone layer. Currently, we are experiencing depletion of approximately 3 percent at Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes and 6 percent at Southern Hemisphere 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 phaseout, CFCs are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. CFC-11 and CFC-113 levels are decreasing, and CFC-12 levels are increasing but at a slower rate than in the past. If international agreements are adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover around 2050. Much more information on the science of ozone depletion is available online.
Reduced Health Risks
The phaseout 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 phaseout of CFCs, however, EPA expects millions of fewer cases of this form of skin cancer over the next century.
The CFC phaseout 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.
The CFC phaseout 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.
The Air-Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI) reports that by 2000, 45 percent of existing chillers (large scale air conditioning units for buildings) were converted or replaced with equipment that uses non-CFC refrigerants. This conversion to more efficient equipment reduced energy use by almost 7 billion kilowatt hours per year, amounting to $480 million annual savings for new equipment owners by 2000.
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.
Case Studies of Successful CFC Elimination
The CFC phaseout is a major component of the international effort to protect the stratospheric ozone layer. The phaseout relied on market forces to encourage development of CFC alternatives. This approach allowed CFC users to respond independently and creatively, often leading to improved technologies and cost reductions. The following are some examples:
Aerospace Guidance and Metrology Center (AGMC)
The AGMC is a critical repair facility for military navigation and guidance systems. The center once consumed more than 2 million pounds per year of CFC-based cleaning solvents, and it faced a daunting challenge in making the transition to non-ozone-depleting substances. Missile guidance systems are so sensitive that parts must fit with clearances of only one to five microns (millionths of a meter), and the most minute residue can affect a missile's target accuracy.
The AGMC developed The Ozone Depleting Chemical Elimination program, and initiated testing of alternatives. By shifting to more benign cleaning techniques, the AGMC has virtually eliminated dependence on ozone-depleting chemicals. Aerospace and electronics companies have praised AGMC's cleaning processes. In 1995 the center won the Ford Foundation "Innovations in American Government" award.
Food Packaging Industry
In 1988, the makers of disposable foam cartons and food packaging announced a nation-wide phaseout of CFC use in food service packaging foams. At that time, about one-third of foam products for food service were manufactured with CFCs. This initiative, which relied on the adoption of alternative foam blowing agents, marked the first time an industry voluntarily halted use of CFCs. Cooperation between government, business, and environmental groups made this initiative successful.
American Telephone & Telegraph (AT&T)
AT&T was the first U.S. company to set a goal of phasing out CFC use by the end of 1994, and actually succeeded in doing so by 1993. To achieve this goal, the company tested and developed CFC alternatives for its manufacturing operations. These include terpene-based solvents and aqueous spray defluxers for use in cleaning circuit boards.
AT&T was also proactive in encouraging developing countries to support the CFC phaseout. The company sent managers and technical experts to Hungary, Japan, Singapore, the former USSR, and other countries to demonstrate the new technologies. AT&T also played a leadership role in the creation of the International Cooperative for Ozone Protection (ICOLP), an industry and government partnership to promote the benefits of global cooperation in protecting the ozone layer.
The CFC phaseout presents an ideal opportunity for building owners to capture energy savings by upgrading and modernizing air conditioning and refrigeration systems. A J.C. Penney retail store in Cumberland, GA implemented state-of-the-art lighting and other energy reduction measures, which in turn allowed it to install a smaller, more efficient air- conditioning and refrigeration system. This generated annual energy savings of 25 percent, amounting to $66,500/year. J.C. Penney also earned a $35,000 rebate from Atlanta Gas Light Company to defray new equipment costs.