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Researchers 'shocked' by rise in banned ozone-destroying chemical

A scientist who monitors chemicals in the atmosphere was stunned when he detected a rise in emissions of CFCs, despite a worldwide ban.

CFCs are chemicals used to make foam for buildings and also found in aerosols and refrigerants, and they can destroy ozone. Stephen Montzka of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and his colleagues have tracked the source of the new CFC-11 emissions to east Asia, and they are searching for the exact location so they can take action. "I have been doing this for 27 years and this is the most surprising thing I've ever seen," he told The Guardian. "I was just shocked by it. We are acting as detectives of the atmosphere, trying to understand what is happening and why. When things go awry, we raise a flag."

CFCs were banned after scientists discovered a hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica in the 1980s. CFCs that were used before the ban can leak into the air, but because it's more expensive to make the less-damaging alternative to CFC-11, the increase in emissions could be due to new, illegal production of CFC-11. Montzka says he is confident researchers will "find out fairly quickly what exactly is going on and that the situation will be remedied." If someone is making CFC-11, Montzka said, he's hopeful they will learn that scientists are on the case and will cease production.