SEDAC Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center
Environmental Effects of Ozone Depletion 1998 Assessment



Changes in Tropospheric Composition and Air Quality

X. Tang (China), S. Madronich (USA), T. Walligton (USA) and D. Calamari (Italy)


Reductions in stratospheric ozone (O3) cause increased penetration of ultraviolet-B (UV-B) radiation to the troposphere, and therefore increases in the chemical activity in the lower atmosphere (the troposphere). Tropospheric ozone levels are sensitive to local concentrations of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and hydrocarbons. Model studies suggest that additional UV-B radiation reduces tropospheric ozone in clean environments (low NOx), and increases tropospheric ozone in polluted areas (high NOx).

    Assuming other factors remain constant, additional UV-B will increase the rate at which primary pollutants are removed from the troposphere. Increased UV-B is expected to increase the concentration of hydroxyl radicals (OH) and result in faster removal of pollutants such as carbon monoxide (CO), methane (CH4), non-methane hydrocarbons (NMHCs), sulfur and nitrogen oxides, hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs), and hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs). Concentrations of peroxy radicals (both inorganic and organic) are expected to increase, leading to higher atmospheric levels of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) and organic peroxides. The effects of UV-B increases on tropospheric O3, OH, methane, CO, and possibly other tropospheric constituents, while not negligible, will be difficult to detect because the concentrations of these species are also influenced by many other variable factors (e.g., emissions).

    Trifluoroacetic acid (TFA, CF3COOH) is produced in the atmosphere by the degradation of HCFC-123 (CF3CHCl2), HCFC-124 (CF3CHFCl), and HFC-134a (CF3CH2F), which are used as substitutes for ozone depleting substances. The atmospheric oxidation mechanisms of these replacement compounds are well established. Reported measurements of TFA in rain, rivers, lakes, and oceans show it to be a ubiquitous component of the hydrosphere, present at levels much higher than can be explained by reported sources. The levels of TFA produced by the atmospheric degradation of HFCs and HCFCs emitted up to the year 2020 are estimated to be orders of magnitude below those of concern, and to make only a minor contribution to the current environmental burden of TFA.

    No significant effects on humans or the environment have been identified from TFA produced by atmospheric degradation of HCFCs and HFCs. Numerous standard short-term studies have shown that TFA has, at most, moderate toxicity.

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