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China Building Industry Blamed for Emissions Rise

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

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A new report from the Environmental Investigations Agency is targeting China’s construction industry for a rise in emissions that officials say is hampering the healing of the ozone layer.

The report describes how more than a dozen companies are using CFC-11 (trichlorofluromethane)—a chemical that was internationally banned by the Montreal Protocol—in polyurethane foam insulation.

What Happened

The EIA (an international, non-governmental association) investigated the use of the chemical after researchers published a study in May showing an unexpected uptick in CFC-11 emissions. Eventually, investigations led to 20 manufacturing facilities across 10 provinces in China.

Of those 20 facilities, 18 openly admitted to using CFC-11 in the polyurethane insulation production. The chemical is used as a “blowing agent” for polyurethane foam. One manufacturer interviewed said that his company still uses CFC-11 in “99 percent” of products because the leading alternative is so much less efficient.

"We were absolutely gobsmacked to find that companies very openly confirmed using CFC-11 while acknowledging it was illegal," Avipsa Mahapatra, from the EIA, told BBC News.

"The fact that they were so blasé about it, the fact that they told us very openly how pervasive it is in the market, these were shocking findings for us."

Officials say that China’s polyurethane foam makes up about one-third of global production, so the worry is that the still-widespread use of the chemical will set back the closing of the hole in the ozone. Some fear it will halt the repair by more than a decade.

What Now

Mahapatra said that, in order to remedy the situation, China will have to crackdown on the production of CFC-11 and launch a full-scale investigation.

"It is critical for the government of China not to treat these as isolated incidents,” said Mahapatra. “We want them to clamp down but it's supremely important for them to carry out a comprehensive investigation into the sector. It has to result in seizures, it has to result in arrests so that people know there are harsh penalties for the production of CFC-11."

Montreal Protocol delegates are also meeting to discuss a plan to tackle the problem.


Tagged categories: Construction chemicals; Ozone depleting chemicals; Spray polyurethane foam

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