Hot Coolants; July 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Beardsley; 1 Page(s)
Growing evidence of large-scale smuggling in chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), coolants that deplete the earth¿s protective ozone layer, has forced the world¿s rich countries to agree on coordinated action to enforce the Montreal Protocol. That 1987 treaty was intended to reduce and ultimately phase out the chemicals. But although the treaty has driven a 90 percent decrease in CFC production over the past decade, the fall has been slowed by a thriving global black market in the chemicals, fed by factories in Russia, India and China, among other places. "The illegal CFC trade is one of the greatest threats to ozone-layer recovery," says John Passacantando of Ozone Action, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Legal loopholes mean that controlling the traffic is turning out to be a challenge.
According to Duncan Brack of the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, about 15 percent of CFCs in use around the world--tens of thousands of tons--have been smuggled at some point, many shipped via Europe. Russian CFCs, which originally dominated the trade, have given way to Chinese and, most recently, Indian material. As developing nations, China and India qualify to manufacture CFCs in bulk until 2010. Industrial countries can make them only for special purposes-- or for export to developing ones.