Benefits of the CFC Phase-out
The CFC phase out is already 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 phase out is an important turning point in the recovery of the ozone layer. Currently, we are experiencing depletion of approximately 5 percent at 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 phase out, CFCs are no longer accumulating in the atmosphere at an accelerating rate. Scientists predict that maximum CFC levels will occur before the turn of the century. If international agreements are adhered to, the ozone layer is expected to recover around 2050.
Reduced Health Risks
The phase out 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 Programmer (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 phase out of CFCs, however, EPA expects 295 million fewer cases of this form of skin cancer over the next century.
The CFC phase out 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 phase out 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 and Refrigeration Institute (ARI) reports that by 1998, 44 percent of existing chillers (large scale air conditioning units for buildings) will be converted or replaced with equipment that uses non-CFC refrigerants. This conversion to more efficient equipment is anticipated to reduce energy use by almost 7 billion kilowatt hours per year, amounting to $480 million annual savings for new equipment owners by January 1998.
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. By 1998, chiller conversions and replacements are estimated to avoid emissions of 4 million tons of CO2, and 34,000 tons of SO2. The reduction in SO2 represents the annual emissions of one and a half large coal-fired power plants.