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China is secretly producing Freon gas: Study

May 28,2019
China has been lying to the world and mass-producing thousands of tons of prohibited ozone layer-destroying Freon gas for years, local researchers said Thursday.

The result raises the possibility that China has been deliberately violating the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which prohibited the production of Freon gas - scientifically called chlorofluorocarbon-11 (CFC-11) - globally since 2010.

Kyungpook National University researchers announced Thursday findings that show that more than 7,000 tons of Freon gas have been released from eastern China since 2013, which explains 40 percent to 60 percent of the sudden increase in Freon gas globally released in the global atmosphere.

Freon gas, commonly used as refrigerants and aerosol propellants until 2003, was found in 1974 to destroy the ozone layer and contribute to global warming. Eight years later, 46 countries, including China, signed the Montreal Protocol and vowed to phase out their Freon gas production by 2010.

Yet the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported last year that Freon gas was still being produced in an industrial capacity, as the atmospheric level of CFC-11 was not declining as quickly as believed starting in 2012.

The organization suspected the emissions were coming from somewhere in East Asia but failed to pinpoint how much Freon gas was being produced and in what country.

The Kyungpook National University report, published in the latest edition of Nature, has confirmed the U.S. organization’s suspicions and specifically picked China as the violator of the environmental accord.

“It is highly possible that the increase in emission levels we observed is less than the actual amount of Freon gas produced,” said Park Sun-young, head of the Kyungpook National University research team.

Park said she and her fellow researchers analyzed the Freon gas concentration levels around the world and reverse-tracked CFC-11’s movements in the atmosphere. After analyzing data compiled between 2008 and 2017, they concluded it was China that was mass-producing Freon, as no other region showed significant changes in CFC-11 concentration levels during the period.

The research team ruled out the possibility that the Freon gas was emitted from outdated facilities, as the amount of gas is simply too large. It suspects the large amount of detected ozone-depleting gas came from building and using new facilities that were not reported to the United Nations Ozone Secretariats.

Park suspects the country has continued to manufacture Freon gas, also used as a filler for construction projects, as it is price-efficient and easy to produce.

BY KO JUN-TAE [ko.juntae@joongang.co.kr]