What are Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)?


Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are non-toxic, non-flammable chemicals composed of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, with the term CFC originating from these constituent elements. They have been used in items such as aerosol sprays, foam-blowing agents, solvents, and refrigerants. They are classified as halocarbons since they include both carbon and halogen. Each CFC molecule has a unique identification number.

They are fundamental hydrocarbon derivatives such as methane, ethane, and propane. When it reaches the ozone layer, its chlorine component destroys massive amounts of ozone, resulting in huge reductions in atmospheric ozone. This decline poses risks to the planet’s population, prompting the discontinuation of CFC use.

What are the Examples of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)?

The following are some significant CFC examples:

  • CFC-11 (Trichlorofluoromethane): CFC-11 known as freon-11 or R-11 is a colourless liquid with a slight ethereal and sweet odour. It boils at room temperature damaging the ozone layer.
  • CFC-12 (Dichlorodifluoromethane): CFC-12, a colourless gas, is commonly marketed under the brand name Freon-12. It can be made by combining carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) and hydrogen fluoride (HF).
  • Carbon Tetrachloride (CCl4): This liquid is transparent and has a slightly sweet odour. It is not flammable at low temperatures.
  • 1,1,1-Trichloroethane (Methyl Chloroform): This chloroalkane chemical, derived from an alkane, is a colourless compound that has a sweet odour. Once, it was mass-produced for use as a solvent.

Also Read: What is Carbon Offsetting?

What are the Effects of CFC?

The effects of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are as follows:

A. Effects of CFCs on Humans:

  • Its exposure may adversely affect human health through inhalation, ingestion, or direct touch, raising the risk of dangerous UV radiation exposure.
  • Breathing these compounds can cause symptoms such as dizziness, headaches, tremors, and convulsions.
  • Inhaling these chemicals can disrupt cardiac rhythms, potentially leading to fatal heart abnormalities.
  • High-level CFC exposure can lead to asphyxiation.
  • Consumption of these compounds can cause gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea.
  • General health difficulties caused by its exposure include respiratory troubles and harm to important organs such as the heart, kidneys, and liver.
  • Direct skin contact may cause irritation or dermatitis.
  • Exposed to pressurise CFCs can cause frostbite.
  • Increased exposure to damaging UV-B rays due to ozone layer depletion increases the risk of skin cancer, cataracts, and macular degeneration. 
  • Prolonged sun exposure can also result in wrinkled, thick, or leathery skin.
  • Its exposure affects the human immune system, increasing vulnerability to heat stress and susceptibility to insect and water-borne illnesses.

B. Effects of CFCs on the Environment:

  • CFCs deplete the ozone layer, increasing harmful UV radiation effects on the Earth’s surface and aquatic ecosystems.
  • According to scientists, the ozone layer is recovering as a result of CFC limitations.
  • These CFC compounds lead to the greenhouse effect and aggravate global warming due to their infrared absorption properties.
  • Increased UV radiation as a result of ozone depletion has an impact on both the Earth’s surface and aquatic ecosystems, also resulting in rising sea levels.
  • Interfere with the lifecycle of phytoplankton, which is critical to the carbon cycle.
  • These compounds also cause habitat loss and potential extinction of local species.
  • It also results in more frequent and severe flooding occurrences.

Also See: What is Carbon Sequestration?

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