Mexico Beats Deadline, Stops Using CFCs
MONTERREY, Mexico -- Mexico has stopped producing ozone-depleting chemicals four years before a deadline set by an international agreement, the environment secretary announced Friday.
The last chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs -- manmade chemicals used in aerosol sprays, refrigerators and air conditioners -- were produced last month in this northern industrial city, Environment Secretary Jose Luis Luege Tamargo said.
Scientists have linked the use of CFCs to destruction of the ozone layer.
"Mexico is a pioneer when it comes to protecting the ozone layer, and in the last 15 years has reduced by 90 percent the use of CFCs," said Luege Tamargo, speaking at chemical plant belonging to Cydsa, an industrial group that was the largest producer of CFCs in Latin America .
Mexico is one of 189 nations, including the United , that signed the Montreal Protocol, a 1987 agreement that aims to phase out the use and production of CFCs by 2010.
Luege Tamargo said all domestic and commercial refrigerators made in Mexico after 1997 are free of CFCs, aerosol spray products now use alternative substances and companies producing polyethylene foam have stopped using CFCs.
The measures taken in Mexico will reduce the production of CFCs 12 percent worldwide, said Sidi Sir Ahmed, director of environmental programs at the U.N. Industrial Development Organization.
"Mexico is the first developing country to completely eliminate its CFCs production ... and it's meeting its obligation in a very efficient and accelerated manner," he said.
Despite the advances, Mexico still has to eliminate the use of CFCs in old refrigerators that use them as a coolant.
To tackle the problem, Mexico's Environment Department has set up recycling centers and is keeping a close watch on companies that may want to import or export CFCs. It is also providing technical and financial assistance to industries switching to refrigerators that use ozone-friendly substances, Luege Tamargo said.
The ozone layer, located 10 to 25 miles above the earth in the stratosphere, has thinned and a hole has opened over the Antarctic.
In the 1970s, scientists warned that manmade chemicals, including CFCs and methyl bromide, a pesticide used in agriculture, were destroying the ozone, which works to prevent most of the sun's ultraviolet rays from reaching the surface.
The depletion of ozone allows more harmful ultraviolet rays to reach the earth, which can cause skin cancer, eye damage and other health problems.
Scientists say it could be 20 years before ozone levels recover noticeably, and full recovery can be expected around 2050.