Scientists from University of Toronto discovered that the gas perfluorotributylamine (PFTBA), which has been widely used in the electrical industry for the past half a century, is 7,000 times stronger than carbon dioxide in trapping heat in the atmosphere. The team suggested that if the concentrations of the gas are not controlled in the future, it could cause much greater increase in global temperatures and have a detrimental and irreversible effect on our climate.
The study published in the latest issue of Geophysical Research Letters demonstrates that the molecule of the PFTBA gas has the greatest radiative efficiency of all molecules currently present in the atmosphere. Although the concentrations of PFTBA are too low to have any influence on the current climate, the scientists state that their research should serve as a warning against the extensive use of substances with unknown environmental impact.
According to the team led by Angela Hong, although the 0.18 parts per trillion of PFTBA, currently measured in the atmosphere in the area of Toronto, is nowhere near the 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide, PFTBA could persist in the atmosphere for more than 500 years, and there is no known natural mean that can remove it or absorb it. Each molecule has the potential to cause irreversible damage within its lifespan, and the effects could be much longer lasting.
In addition, the team points out that there might be many other chemical substances, which are widely used in various industries, but because their impact is unknown, there are no regulations or policies that control the productions. The scientists hope that policy makers and industries will take note and be more cautious with using chemicals before they understand the potential threats that they pose.
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