A large number of Ozone Depleting chemicals were banned in 1987. Since then the concentration in the environment has been steadily decreasing and the Ozone Hole was repairing itself. That is until 2013, when the concentration of chemicals levelled off. A report published last year, and further evidence released last week, indicates that Chinese foam manufacturers are to blame for the levels of Ozone Depleting chemicals.

In the Pharmaceutical industry we rely upon passive cold chain shippers and refrigerated equipment to store and distribute medicines around Australia. But did you ever wonder where they (or their chemical precursors) come from? If you work for a company interested in the “triple bottom line”, or you just personally care about the environment, then a scientific report that came out last week is a critical read.

Manufacturing of foam products for the refrigerated industry involves a variety of chemicals. Expanded Poly Styrene (EPS), Poly Urethane (PU) and Expanded Poly Propylene (XPP) all require precursor chemicals, catalysts, solvents and more. Ten or fifteen years ago a huge swath of popular chemicals were banned, as apart of the Montreal Protocol, because they contributed to the growing Ozone hole above the Antarctic and Australia. Some of these Ozone Depleting chemicals are cheaper and more efficient refrigerants than the newer alternatives. But with out the change the Ozone Hole would continue to grow.

In 2018 a study revealed what scientists and others suspected, that manufacturers in North Eastern China were still using CFC-11 chemicals (Ozone Depleting chemicals) in their production.

Ever since the 1987 ban, the concentration of the chemical in the environment has been steadily declining but last year startled scientists discovered that the pace of that slowdown dropped by half from 2013 to 2017. Because the chemical does not occur in nature, the change could only have been produced by new emissions.

Global C11 emissions have stopped their decline in recent years. Picture CSIRO

The study published in Nature confirmed that there was a 40-60% increase in Ozone Depleting (OD) CFC-11 emissions between 2014 to 2017. And it’s slowing down the rate of recovery for the hole in the crucial ozone layer.

The ozone layer is a region of Earth’s stratosphere that essentially act as a shield and absorbs most of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The ozone layer is a region of Earth’s stratosphere that essentially act as a shield and absorbs most of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation.

So back in 1985 when scientists discovered that there was a hole over Antarctica and Australia, it was very bad for the environment. After that, we all got together and banned the use of harmful gases that depleted Earth’s protective layer in the 1987 Montreal Protocol.

China is a signatory of the Montreal Protocol.

Simulated transport of CFC-11 based on monitoring from two weather stations sampling over the last 10 years. The colours infer how weather patterns across northeastern China would spread the atmospheric banned chemicals to there the measurements were captured.

Using high-frequency atmospheric observations from Gosan in South Korea and Hateruma in Japan, they were able to measure the CFC-11 in the environment. Together with global monitoring data and atmospheric chemical transport simulations, researchers extrapolated the weather patterns back to the source: north-eastern China.

Reports last year from the Environmental Investigation Agency fingered Chinese foam factories in the coastal province of Shandong and the inland province of Hebei, which surrounds Beijing.

Manufacturers have said they continued to use the banned product because of its better quality and cheaper price. The New York Times reported that some factories were producing the gas in secret, while other manufacturers said the local governments turned a blind eye.

“It wasn’t entirely a surprise,” said Matthew Rigby, lead author of the study and Reader in Atmospheric Chemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol. Suspicions were strengthened when Chinese authorities subsequently shut down some of these facilities without explanation after last years initial report.

So where does your passive cold chain shippers / refrigeration equipment get manufactured? and are you indirectly contributing to polluting the environment?

CoolPac manufactures passive cold chain shippers for distributing medicines. We make polyurethane insulated boxes with chemicals that have ZERO (that’s right “zero”) Ozone Depleting potential.