An Overview of the Impacts of Chlorofluorocarbon on the Port Harcourt Environment in Nigeria
1Okale K. S. and 2Nnadi Ezekiel Ejiofor
1Environmental Management Department, ESUT Business School, Enugu, Nigeria
2Civil engineering Department, Kampala International University, Uganda
Corresponding author Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) is a beneficial compound utilized in the manufacturing of common products such as aerosols, inhalers, and air conditioners. Nonetheless, it poses enduring concerns for health and the environment, particularly with regard to its impact on the ozone layer. In this study, we examine the varieties and origins of CFCs and their consequences on human well-being and the ecosystem in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. Employing secondary documentary information, the research concludes that CFCs have significant adverse effects on both the environment and human health, leading to conditions like skin ailments, vision issues, weakened immune systems, changes in plant photosynthesis, and disturbances in aquatic life equilibrium. The study advocates for the promotion of cooperation between developing nations, such as Nigeria, and developed nations to curtail and eventually eliminate the use of CFCs, commencing with smaller-scale initiatives in Port Harcourt.
Keywords: Air conditioners, ozone layers, health, human, environment and CFC
In the early years of the 20th century, air conditioners and refrigeration systems were designed to use compounds such as propane, Ammonia, Sulphur Dioxide and Chloromethane as cooling agents or refrigerants [1-4]. These compounds, though effective as cooling agents, were flammable and toxic such that their exposure to humans could lead in severe injury or in worse cases, death [5-7]. In the early 1930s, scientists at Frigidaire headed by Midgely Thomas developed safer, non-toxic alternatives to the cooling agents or refrigerants [8-9]. They focused mainly on refrigerant alternatives that contain carbon and halogens like chlorine and fluorine. Such compounds are usually inert and volatile and they have some suitable properties required for refrigerant in refrigeration systems [10-11]. The initial compound they considered for use was a compound; dichlorodifluoromethane (CFCs) generally called “Freon.” In the 70s, they became generally used as refrigerant in refrigeration system and the global production level had reached close to one million tons yearly [12-14]. Two scientists; Molina and Rowland, in 1973, uncovered that this compound used as refrigerant (CFCs) were not as harmless as initially purported because of their effect on the stratosphere [12-14]. They also ascertained that these compounds when exposed to UV light rays, disintegrate into three components: carbon, chlorine and fluorine through a chemical reaction that is devastating to the ozone layer in the atmosphere [15-18]. This happens in such a way that over a hundred thousand molecules of ozone are disintegrated and destroyed. The main chemical reaction in this process is unique because the chlorine molecule released during the disintegration of the CFCs is used to continuously and repeatedly disintegrate the ozone in a corresponding chain reaction [19-21]. Based on History, chlorine is considered as one of the most essential and safe industrial chemicals [22-25]. They are not flammable, cheap, stable, efficient, effective and non-corrosive, when considering industrial hygiene. It also has low level of toxicity, non-irritating, non-sensitizing and has a slightly offensive odour. Because of these impressive attributes, Chlorine-based hydrocarbons, became widely used and according to a report in 1991 a whopping 682 million tons of these compounds were already used globally [26-27]. They also had some other impressive features such as low boiling point and low level of reactivity. The boiling point related properties made them good cooling agents because they quickly change to vapour with slight heating and easily absorbed heat without heating up the item which it intends to keep in a cool state. The low level of toxicity was an additional advantage because other refrigerants which were in use (sulphur dioxide, ammonia and chloromethane) were highly toxic [9-13]. Finally, their low level of reactivity ensured that they did not easily react with their container or other compounds used in the cooling process. Their chemical and physical features made them a crucial part of several manufacturing processes such as electronics production. However, it was later uncovered that they are responsible for the destruction of the ozone layer contained in the stratosphere, with unimaginable implications to all lives on earth. This discovery later led to a global consensus to stop the production of these compounds on or before the end of the 20th century. The interaction between these compounds (CFCs) and ozone depletion has been expressed by empirical and numerical modelled studies and also through direct measurements in the atmosphere . The Montreal Agreement and consensus to end production and use of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) is currently among the substantial environmental successes of the 20th century. Since the agreement entered into effect in the late 80s, it triggered worldwide reductions and an end of the production of CFCs which critically deplete the ozone; first among developed nations, then followed by developing nations, with all nations accepting to essentially end CFC production on or before 2010 especially CFC-11 and CFC-12 . This impending termination of the CFCs forced manufacturers especially electronics firms to re-examine possible alternative compounds and processing procedures .
In 1985, observation of a hole in the ozone layer within the Antarctic Pole presented proof that the layer was being depleted in a faster rate and this led to the adoption of the Montreal Agreement as a baseline for global collaboration regarding control of CFCs based on Vienna Convention for the Ozone Layer Protection. Also, CFC alternatives that are not reactive to the ozone layer were quickly produced through several rigorous research. The approximate global use chart for CFCs as at 1985 was 15% as refrigerants, 35% as foam making reagent, 31% as aerosol catalysts, 7% as miscellaneous and 12% as unallocated reserved product [8-12]. Recent CFC-11 assessment revealed that emissions of the gas have increased not minding global near-zero production agreement that was supposed to end in 2010. This situation raises some concerns on the future of the ozone layer and the level of emission that is still coming from CFCs used in several equipment .
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATION
Today’s world is more serious about keeping an environmental and health friendly environment, thanks to the Kyoto protocol and the cooperation of most countries to do away with the harmful Chlorofluorocarbons. However, there are negative effects of the CFCs which have been used over time and mankind is currently paying for it. It is necessary that research is continuously done to get replacements for these toxins because the dastardly effects are no longer tolerable to nature. The importance of the ozone layer cannot also be over emphasised because continuous depletion of it will spell doom for mankind. Hence, to control the depletion of the ozone layer we have to stop in entirety the use of CFCs. Scientists are doing their best to save the ozone layer by recommending the use of substitutes of CFCs which are not as harmful to the ozone and as a result, we can see positive result over this phenomenon. The skin and the eyes are part of the human body that are commonly and highly exposed to UV rays, therefore there is high possibility of cases of skin cancer, eye related sicknesses and immune suppressions as a result of continuous exposure to these toxins. It is therefore important to use full-body clothing and sunglasses especially in summer when the intensity of sun rays is high so that we can be protected from harmful effect of these radiations. It is also advised that people should use sun-block creams on the exposed parts of the body such as the face. Although the necessity of CFCs is supplementary, it is our duty to save our planet and ensure that while we are here, we do not intentionally make our conditions of leaving more difficult than it should be. Finally, it is recommended that efforts should be geared towards encouraging developing countries to join hands with developed countries to take these issues of eradicating harmful CFCs from their nations and this can be achieved by starting in smaller quarters like in the city of Port Harcourt.
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CITE AS: Okale K. S. and Nnadi Ezekiel Ejiofor (2023). An Overview of the Impacts of Chlorofluorocarbon on the Port Harcourt Environment in Nigeria. IDOSR JOURNAL OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH 8(3)139-151. https://doi.org/10.59298/IDOSRJSR/2023/00.11.6011