'Somebody's Cheating': 8 Years After Ban, Scientists Urge World Leaders to Find Mysterious Source Behind Skyrocketing CFC Levels

Despite having been banned, emissions of a chemical found to create holes in the ozone layer have skyrocketed in recent years, according to a new study—leading scientists to wonder whether the pollutant is being secretly manufactured somewhere on Earth.

Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) found that CFC-11 emissions have gone up 25 percent since 2012, although the international community agreed to end production of all chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) by 2010 as part of the Montreal Protocol in 1987.

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“Somebody’s cheating,” Durwood Zaelke, founder of the Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development, told the Washington Post of the new research. “There’s some slight possibility there’s an unintentional release, but…they make it clear there’s strong evidence this is actually being produced.”

The study, which was published in Nature on Wednesday, suggests that new production of the chemical is being carried out by an identified source in East Asia.

“It is therefore critical that we take stock of this science, identify the causes of these emissions, and take necessary action.” —Keith Weller, U.N. Environment Program

The chemical was widely used in aerosol spray cans and as a foaming agent before being phased out under the Montreal Protocol, which was negotiated by the United Nations in 1987. Scientists had determined that CFC-11 could remain in the atmosphere for up to 50 years once it’s released, causing chemical reactions that eat away at the ozone layer, and contributing to the warming of the Earth.