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Developments in Brief : Resurgence Found in Ozone Damaging Spray

September 07, 1986|Compiled from Times staff and wire service reports

A resurgence in production of gases that damage the atmosphere's ozone layer--Earth's shield against ultraviolet radiation--could result in more than 1 million skin cancer cases in the next 40 years, the Environmental Defense Fund warns.

The fragile layer of ozone 10 to 30 miles high is threatened by an upswing in global production of the gases, known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), despite legislation in the United States banning their use in aerosol sprays, Daniel Dudek, author of the Environmental De fense Fund report, said last week.

"The production of some types of CFCs hit a peak in 1974, then dropped," he said. "Now we are seeing a resurgence since about 1980 or 1982."

Nearly all refrigerators and air conditioning systems use chlorofluorocarbons, and the gases are used in the manufacture of certain foams and for other industrial purposes.

"We have to realize that banning aerosol sprays in just the United States was not enough, or we'll have to face some tough consequences," Dudek said.

But an industry spokesman said the increase in CFC production is not large enough to justify more regulations. "Although production has increased since 1978, it has leveled off in the past few years," said Kevin Fay of the Alliance for Responsible CFC Policy. "In our view there is adequate time to reach an international accord on this issue."

Ozone, a molecular cousin of oxygen, filters out most of the harmful ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Scientists believe a complex chain reaction triggered by the CFC gases rising into the upper atmosphere destroys ozone molecules. Just how that process works is being closely studied by scientists at Antarctica, over which ozone depletion reportedly has been especially severe.

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