Since the famous Montreal Protocol banning CFC’s and HCFC’s was signed in 1987, the public seems to have largely forgotten about the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica. However scientists from the University of East Anglia just identified four more ozone-damaging chemicals, and these compounds are also potent greenhouse gases.

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Scientists believe that the new chemicals could be leaking from industrial plants or used illegally and without government oversight. Dr Johannes Laube from the University of East Anglia and his colleagues analyzed various air samples trapped in Greenland’s snowpack, in Tasmania, and above Europe, since the 1970’s. They discovered three new CFC’s and one HCFC, and they predict the presence of dozens more. The four compounds add to the 13 already recognized and restricted chemicals known to deplete the ozone layer, which are controlled by the Montreal Protocol. The scientists postulate that the chemicals were most likely produced in the north and blown south to Antarctica.

Most of these chemicals take decades to break down, meaning that even small amounts have the potential to wreak havoc for years after they are released. Over 74,000 tons of the four newly discovered compounds have already been pumped into the air. Even though all CFC’s were banned in 2010, scientists still see increases in the level CFC113a, and no one is quite sure as to its source. For the Montreal Protocol to remain effective, scientists must continue to monitor the atmosphere, add new offenders to the list, and provide evidence to legislators who control the production of ozone-depleting chemicals.

Via The Guardian

Images via NASA and Wikicommons user Piccolo Namek