MIT has discovered an industrial fumigant that has 4,800x the potency of CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Even more interesting is that this fumigant came into widespread use in the campaign against the depletion of the ozone layer.
In the late 1980s when the Montreal Protocol limited chlorofluorocarbon emissions, methyl bromide, a popular compound used for agricultural pest elimination, was targeted for its ozone depleting properties. Over time, sulfuryl fluoride replaced it as the standard in pest fumigation. Now, years later, scientists have discovered that sulfuryl fluoride lasts much longer in the atmosphere than they thought and is far more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2.
The good news is that since the compound was only introduced into the air in recent years, there is just a tiny concentration in the atmosphere. Stopping its use now will prevent any major consequences. But what is scary about this discovery is that the EPA found sulfuryl fluoride to have "virtually no impact on the global atmosphere" when it approved it for use in 2002.
This news really emphasizes the need to constantly evaluate the impact of the chemicals we use and release into the atmosphere. There could easily be many more 'sulfuryl fluorides' out there that we now consider harmless, but could really do lots of damage.
via WSJ Environmental Capital
written by Glass Bottles, March 12, 2009
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