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How to reduce CFC emissions

Updated June 13, 2017

Chlorofluorocarbons are human-made chemicals once used widely around the globe. During the 1970s and 1980s, scientists discovered that CFCs were destroying the protective ozone layer in Earth's upper atmosphere. The 1987 Montreal Protocol has reduced the worldwide stock of CFCs and other ozone-destroying compounds by 98 per cent. The ozone layer is expected to recover by the mid-twenty-first century. However, it is still vital to reduce and eliminate the remaining CFCs and other ozone-depleting substances. Learn how you can contribute personally to this environmental success story.

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  1. Choose CFC-free products for your household. With the worldwide implementation of the Montreal Protocol, it became much easier to make such choices. CFCs have largely disappeared from the computer manufacturing process, polystyrene packing materials and disposable cups, refrigerators, car and home air conditioners, aerosol sprays, fire extinguishers, degreasing compounds and foam ingredients in furniture. However, you may still encounter CFC-containing items. The Natural Resources Defense Council website recommends product databases that can guide you to ozone-friendly purchases.

  2. If you own or work for a business, ensure that your company supplies and products are as free of CFCs as possible. As of late 2010, you are more likely to encounter CFCs in industrial than in household use. Consult the Natural Resources Defense Council's recommended product databases. The NRDC website also publishes a sample letter encouraging suppliers to adopt ozone-friendly compounds, which you could use as a template.

  3. Follow the Montreal Protocol's directives as well as national and local laws for disposal of any appliances like refrigerators that were manufactured before CFC phaseouts. Special procedures prevent escape of any CFCs into the atmosphere. These include recapture and recycling as well as approved means of destroying the CFCs.

  4. Learn about and avoid wherever possible ozone-depleting substances in addition to CFCs. These include carbon tetrachloride, halons, hydrobromofluorocarbons or HBFCs, hydrochloroflurocarbons or HCFCs, bromochloromethane or BCM, and methyl bromide. The Montreal Protocol covers these compounds as well.

  5. Tip

    Because initially there were no patient-safe alternatives, metered dose inhalers or MDIs for delivery of drugs like the asthma treatment albuterol were originally exempt from CFC phaseout regulations. However, CFC-free alternatives have since been developed. Your physician, patient advocacy organisation, and national drug and medical device regulatory agency can advise you about your current options. In the United States, the non-profit group Allergy and Asthma Network Mothers of Asthmatics or AANMA is an especially helpful resource on MDIs.


    Because they are far less damaging to the ozone layer, HCFCs have become widespread replacements for CFCs. However, it is now known that HCFCs and other such CFC substitutes are potent greenhouse gases that worsen global warming. Thus they in turn are being replaced and phased out. Contact your government's environmental agency for current information.

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About the Author

Mary Krane Derr

Since 2000, Mary Krane Derr has written freelance for publications ranging from the medical journal "Allergy and Clinical Immunology International" to "The Polish American Encyclopedia." She holds a Master of Arts in social work from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor of Arts in biology from Bryn Mawr College.

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