CFC Compounds

Chlorofluorocarbon Compounds (CFC)

Chlorofluorocarbon (CFC Compounds) is an organic compound that contains carbon, chlorine, and fluorine, produce as a volatile derivative of methane and ethane. A common subclass is the hydro chlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), which contain hydrogen, as well.

Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are a family of chemical compounds developed back in the 1930’s as safe, non-toxic, non-flammable alternative to dangerous substances like ammonia for purposes of refrigeration and spray can propellants. Their usage grew enormously over the years. One of the elements that make up CFCs is chlorine. Very little chlorine exists naturally in the atmosphere. But it turn out from the CFCs are an excellent way of introducing chlorine into the ozone layer. The ultraviolet radiation at this altitude breaks down CFCs, freeing the chlorine. Under the proper conditions, this chlorine has the potential to destroy large amounts of ozone. This has indeed been observed especially over Antarctica. As a consequence, levels of genetically harmful ultraviolet radiation have increased.

Uses of CFC Compounds

However when CFCs were first used scientists had no knowledge of the harmful effect as they only saw the benefits which were a low boiling point, low toxic levels and low reactivity levels. The low boiling point made it a good refrigerator as it turns to a vapor quickly, so it can absorb any heat before it heats up the item which is being kept cool. The low toxic level of CFC was a major plus point as previous refrigerators like ammonia, chloromethane and Sulphur dioxide were all toxic. Finally the low reactivates made sure the CFC wouldn’t react with other chemicals involved in refrigeration systems. CFC’s had numerous uses apart from refrigerating as explained above, the main uses were:

  • Blowing Agents: CFCs were used as they produced cells which helped harden or change the state of polymers, plastic and metal.
  • Cleaning Agents: CFCs were used to degrease solvents.
  • Propellants: CFCs were used to decrease the pressure and increase the content in a propellant.

There are still some minor uses of CFCs such as asthma inhalers and Halons fire Suppression systems which HCFCs cannot replace instead CFCs are still allowed to be Used due to the minute amount of CFC needed.

Sources of CFC

These are the main sources of CFC mentioned below:-


The most common emitter of CFCs is refrigerants, particularly those used after the 1930s. When old refrigerators, cars, air conditioners and other machines with his coolant are not properly disposed of, they leak CFCs into the atmosphere as liquids evaporate or work their way into the soil.

Aircraft Halons

In some countries still require fire suppression systems outfitted with halons, a coolant containing CFCs. As of 2011, a safe and effective alternative has not been found. Despite using the dangerous chemical, the industry must follow certain safety measures to dispose of the refrigerant responsibly and to recycle the material when possible.


Gases containing CFCs were used for a long time as components in aerosol cans and propellant liquids. They phased out of aerosol production in 1999 in favor of less harmful hydrocarbon alternatives. However, since CFC molecules have a lifetime of 20 to 100 years in the stratosphere, the damage done in previous decades continues to make an impact.

Rogue CFC

As refrigerants and aerosol cans containing cfcs become older and more obsolete, people tend to forget about them, leaving them eventually to leak and further contaminate the atmosphere.

Effects on Human health by CFC compounds

Skin Cancer and Eye Damage

Since CFCs contribute greatly to the loss of the protective ozone layer, which blocks ultraviolet rays from the sun, spending too much time in this direct sunlight can cause skin cancer. Meaning the skin becomes wrinkled, thick or leathery from too much sun exposure. Also, increased contact with ultraviolet rays can cause cataracts, macular degeneration and other eye damage.

Inhaling CFCs

Inhalation of CFCs affects the central nervous system. The result is intoxication similar to alcohol intake and also includes lightheadedness, headaches, tremors and convulsions. Inhalation of CFCs can also disturb heart rhythm, which can lead to death.

Immune System Deficiency

Since direct exposure to CFCs is linked to negative effects with the central nervous system, these substances can generally impair the human immune system. Problems might include difficulty breathing or injury to the heart, kidneys and liver.

Effects on Environment by CFC compounds

CFCs are unlikely to have any direct impact on the environment in the immediate vicinity of their release. As VOCs, they may be slightly involved in reactions to produce ground level ozone, which can cause damage to plants and materials on a local scale. At a global level however, releases of CFCs have serious environmental consequences. Their long lifetimes in the atmosphere mean that some end up in the higher atmosphere (stratosphere) where they can destroy the ozone layer, thus reducing the protection it offers the earth from the sun’s harmful UV rays. CFCs also contribute to Global Warming (through “the Greenhouse Effect”). Although the amounts emitted are relatively small, they have a powerful warming effect (a very high “Global Warming Potential”).

How to Reduce the CFCs Emission

Make your vehicle ozone friendly

Older vehicles use a CFC named CFC-12 also called Freon. Service your vehicle to ensure that it doesn’t leak this CFC. Stopping leaks can be economical because with the CFC-12 ban, it is expensive to buy that substance. Instead of replacing CFC-12 in an older leaking vehicle, consider retrofitting it so that it can use r-134a, an ozone safe replacement of CFC-12. Consult your vehicle’s manufacturer for information about upgrading your cooling system.

Modernize home cooling system

Most air conditioning systems use halogenated chlorofluorocarbons instead of CFCs. You can help stop ozone depletion by upgrading to modern, high-efficiency air conditioner that uses ozone safe refrigerants. HCFCs, created as a transitional substitute for CFCs, still have the potential to deplete ozone. HCFCs, however, are being retired on a later phase out schedule than CFCs.

Handle old refrigerated appliances with care

You can help protect the ozone layer by disposing of old refrigerators that contain CFC properly. Contact your municipal department of public works or utility company for disposal information. Do not try to remove refrigerant from a freezer or refrigerator yourself that’s dangerous. Delegate this task to a trained refrigerant recovery technician.

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