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Tox Town - Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)

Tox Town - Chlorofluorocarbons (CFC)

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) have been banned since 1996 because they destroy the ozone layer.

What are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)?

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a group of chemical compounds made up of chlorine, fluorine and carbon. This group includes the following: CFC-11, CFC-12, CFC-113, CFC-114, CFC-115 and many forms of freon. They are colorless, odorless, innocuous, incombustible and stable when emitted. After the emission and when reaching the stratosphere, chlorine atoms are divided and released, which destroy the planet's ozone layer. CFCs can last for more than a hundred years in the stratosphere. Since they destroy the ozone layer, production has been banned in the United States since 31 December 1995. Only recycled and stored CFCs can now be used to a limited extent.

Hydrofluorocarbons HFCs) are fabricated chemicals that are now being used as substitutes for CFCs because they do not deplete the ozone layer. They belong to a class of chemicals called fluorinated gases. HFCs are used as refrigerants in commercial sites and residences; air conditioning systems in vehicles; aerosol propellants; solvents for electrical parts; and substances resistant to fire. The major source of HFC emissions is the exhaust of air conditioning systems for vehicles and buildings. Emissions of HFCs and other fluorinated glases account for about three percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

CFCs are also a "greenhouse gas" because they absorb heat of the atmosphere, send some of the heat absorbed back to the surface of the planet and contribute to its warming and climate change.

CFCs were used in inhalers made before 2008 to control asthma, but as of that year their use has been banned for that purpose. They may also be used in research.

How could you be exposed to CFCs?

You may be exposed to CFCs if you use an inhaler manufactured before 2008 that contains CFCs, uses an old window air conditioner containing CFCs or drives an old car with an air conditioner containing CFCs. If you use an old CFC-containing refrigerator, you could be exposed if there is any leakage of that substance. Old appliances and vehicles need to be handled with care in order to safely remove the CFCs they contain.

In the workplace, you could be exposed to CFCs in a facility that recycles CFCs in air conditioners. You may be exposed if you work in a facility that is authorized to use recycled or accumulated CFCs or conduct research with them.

What effect do CFCs have on health? >

Direct exposure to some types of CFCs can cause loss of consciousness, shortness of breath and irregular heartbeat. It can also cause confusion, dizziness, cough, sore throat, difficulty breathing and redness and pain of the eyes. Direct contact with the skin with some types of CFCs can cause cold burns or dry skin.

When CFCs destroy the ozone layer, harmful ultraviolet rays reach Earth. Exposure to stronger ultraviolet rays can cause skin cancer, cataracts, and weakness of the immune system.

In case of emergency due to poisoning or if you have questions about possible toxic substances, contact the control center of local poisoning by calling 1-800-222-1222.

Last Updated: April 4, 2017

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