MEXICO CITY — Mexico moved to protect the ozone layer from further destruction Monday by launching a program to help its manufacturers eliminate the use of chlorofluorocarbons by the year 2000.
The government said it was being advised in the project by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Northern Telecom Ltd., a Canadian telecommunications company.
Chlorofluorocarbons, known as CFCs, are used widely as cooling agents in air conditioners and refrigerators and as cleaning solvents by the electronics industry.
But the man-made chemicals are believed to contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer that protects the Earth's surface from the sun's ultraviolet rays.
Patricio Chirinos, secretary of Urban Development and Ecology, announced that Mexico plans to eliminate the use of CFCs 10 years earlier than required by an international agreement known as the Montreal Protocol.
The protocol, signed in 1987 by 68 nations, requires developing countries such as Mexico to eliminate use of CFCs by the year 2010 and industrialized nations by 2000.
"This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of environmental protection in Mexico," Chirinos said.
Adequate protection of the environment was a key issue in the debate over lowering trade barriers between the United States and Mexico.
Mexican firms that use CFCs will receive funding from the Montreal Protocol's Interim Multilateral Fund to help them make the switch to cleaning solvents that do not damage the ozone layer.
So far, only $12.5 million of an anticipated $200 million has been collected for the fund, said Allen Sessoms, a U.S. government official in Mexico. He said that in a year the fund will be completed.
"We are waiting for the European community and the Japanese to make their contributions," Sessoms said. "Nonetheless, we are still early in the process."
Northern Telecom, makers of digital communications systems, will share alternatives it has developed to using CFCs in the manufacturing of electronic equipment.
The company will also send teams of engineers to Mexico to make plant visits and lead workshops for Mexican companies.
Mexican electronics companies are among the nation's heaviest users of CFCs, using more than 400 tons of CFC solvents and between 8,000 and 10,000 tons of methyl chloroform solvents each year, Chirinos said.
Preston Peek, a Northern Telecom official, said the Ontario-based company will not charge for its services.
He said Northern Telecom plans to eliminate CFCs from its plants worldwide by the end of the year.
Meetings between Northern Telecom scientists and Mexican plant engineers began in June.