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Termite killer lingers as a potent greenhouse gas
Date:3/10/2009

warming potential approximately 4,800 times greater than one kilogram of carbon dioxide. However, amounts of sulfuryl fluoride released into the atmosphere (about 2,000 metric tons per year) are far lower than those of carbon dioxide (about 30 billion metric tons per year) and thus the absolute effect of present SO2F2 emissions on global warming is comparably small.

Widespread use of sulfuryl fluoride began in the 1990s following the Montreal Protocol, an international treaty ratified in 1987 to protect the ozone layer by reducing the production of ozone-depleting chemicals. The protocol ordered the gradual discontinuation of methyl bromide, which has strong ozone-depleting characteristics, and sulfuryl fluoride became a preferred replacement for structural fumigation. Sulfuryl fluoride is regulated as a toxic substance but not currently as a greenhouse gas.

"Such fumigants are very important for controlling pests in the agricultural and building sectors," said Ron Prinn, director of MIT's Center for Global Change Science and a co-author on the new paper. But with methyl bromide being phased out, "industry had to find alternatives, so sulfuryl fluoride has evolved to fill the role."

"Unfortunately, it turns out that sulfuryl fluoride is a greenhouse gas with a longer lifetime than previously assumed," added Mhle. "This has to be taken into account before large amounts are emitted into the atmosphere."

Mhle credited the assistance of the chief manufacturer of sulfuryl fluoride in the United States, Dow AgroSciences, in the study.

"They've been very cooperative in sharing with us their estimates of global industrial sulfuryl fluoride production," he said.

The team's report follows closely on the announcement of a similar finding about the greater-than-expected prevalence of nitrogen trifluoride, a gas used as a cleaning agent during the manufacture of thin-film solar cells, flat panel monitors and other electro
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Contact: Rob Monroe or Mario Aguilera
scrippsnews@ucsd.edu
858-534-3624
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert  

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