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| | Earth | Human World on Jan 23, 2014

This date in science: Sweden goes first to ban aerosol sprays

Virtually every country on Earth banned the use of chlorofluorocarbon-propelled aerosol cans with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1989.

January 23, 1978. On this date, Sweden announced it would ban aerosol sprays containing chlorofluorocarbons as the propelling agent. It was the first country in the world to do so. At the time, evidence had increasingly suggested that chlorofluorocarbons were damaging Earth ozone layer. The U.S. announced it would ban flurocarbon gases in aerosol products on October 15, 1978.

Virtually every country on Earth banned the use of chlorofluorocarbon-propelled aerosol cans with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol in 1989.

As it turned out, the transition to modern aerosols cans was easy. Most consumers didn’t notice any difference among their favorite sprays as aerosol producers began using other propellant gases – propane, n-butane and isobutene – or mechanical pumps.

Has this ban on chlorofluorocarbons sprayed into Earth’s atmosphere helped our ozone layer? Although scientists knew that, in theory, these chemicals could harm the ozone layer, the Antarctic ozone hole was not discovered until 1979. From 1980 through the early 1990s, the hole rapidly grew in size and depth. Since the mid-1990s, area and depth have roughly stabilized, although scientists said recently that the ozone hole is still not in recovery.

Click here for a series of images of the ozone hole, from 1979 to 2008.

Ozone hole over Antarctica at the peak of this year's season of ozone depletion, October, 2013.  Image via NASA/Ozone Hole Watch.

The 2013 ozone hole over Antarctica at the peak of this year’s season of ozone depletion, October, 2013. This year’s ozone hole was slightly smaller than the average for recent decades. Image via NASA/Ozone Hole Watch.

The 2006 ozone hole broken records for area and depth.  Read more about it here.

The 2006 ozone hole broken records for area and depth. But meteorology, not chemistry, may have been the reason. Read more about the 2006 hole here and about Susan Strahan’s recent study on this ozone hole here.

Bottom line: On January 23, 1978, Sweden became the first country to announce it would ban aerosol sprays containing chlorofluorocarbons as the propelling agent. Virtually every country banned the use of these sprays by 1989, with the adoption of the Montreal Protocol. Since then, the Antarctic ozone hole has stabilized, but it is not yet in recovery.

Antarctic ozone hole is not yet in recovery