An informed shopper can avoid products that deplete ozone layer


July 20, 1991|By John Javna | John Javna,Universal Press Syndicate

How much more of the ozone layer can we afford to lose? According to some estimates, about 5 percent of it is already gone. Yet a lot of us continue to use ozone-depleting chemicals in everyday products. And stores keep selling them.

What can we do? One important step could be to become an "ozone activist" -- that is, educate retailers about the chemicals that cause ozone depletion, and help them make the decision to get ozone-depleting products off their shelves.

The ozone destroyers *Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) are among the most damaging ozone depleters, and Americans are the world's heaviest CFC consumers.

*CFCs are most commonly used as coolants in refrigerators and air conditioners. But they're also in foam insulation, foam packaging, aerosol dust removers and other products. Many polystyrene foam products are made with modified CFCs, called HCFCs. These are less damaging, but still ozone depleters.

*Methyl chloroform (also called 1,1,1 trichloroethane), used as a solvent, is weaker than CFCs, but is used in greater quantities. It's found in many home products, particularly in aerosol cans -- even ones that say "ozone friendly" on the label.

*Halon -- a potent ozone depleter -- is used in fire extinguishers.

*Carbon tetrachloride is a poisonous, non-flammable, colorless liquid typically used by chemical companies to make other chemicals.

*Freon is made of CFCs. It's often labeled as R-1 or R-2. It's sold in

cans at auto supply stores.

What you can do *Find out about the ozone layer. The guides listed here are excellent sources.

*Make a list of ozone-damaging products and take it shopping. Pick stores you shop at often. As a regular customer, your opinion carries weight. Grocery, hardware, auto supply and stereo stores all sell products that contain ozone-depleting compounds.

*Compare your list to the products the store carries.

*Share the list of ozone-depleting products with the store manager. Suggest alternatives. For example, aerosol dust removers that contain CFCs can be replaced with canned, compressed air. It works just as well for cleaning home stereo and photograph equipment.

*Check the labels of the ozone-depleting products for names and addresses. Let manufacturers know you won't buy their products again until they're really "ozone friendly."

For more information *"Saving the Ozone Layer: A Citizen Action Guide," The Natural Resources Defense Council, 40 W. 20th St., New York, N.Y. 10011.

*"Protecting the Ozone Layer: What You Can Do," Environmental Defense Fund, 257 Park Ave. South, New York, N.Y. 10010. A citizen's guide to reducing the use of ozone-depleting chemicals.

*Background information and fact sheets on ozone-depleting compounds: Local Solutions to Global Pollution, 2121 Bonar St., Berkeley, Calif. 94702; $5.

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