Termite insecticide potent greenhouse gas

January 22nd, 2009 - 12:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Jan 22 (IANS) An insecticide used in fumigating termite-infested buildings is a strong greenhouse gas, staying up 10 times longer in air than previously suspected.University of California-Irvine (UCI) chemists discovered that Sulfuryl fluoride stays in the atmosphere at least 30-40 years and perhaps as long as 100 years.

Prior studies estimated its atmospheric lifetime at as low as five years, grossly underestimating the global warming potential.

Kilo for kilo, sulfuryl fluoride is about 4,000 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat, though much less of it exists in the atmosphere.

Its climate impact in California each year equals that of carbon dioxide emitted from about one million vehicles. About 60 percent of the world’s sulfuryl fluoride use occurs in California, said an UCI release.

The fact that sulfuryl fluoride exists for decades - coupled with evidence that levels have nearly doubled in the last six years - was the subject of a study by Mads Sulbaek Andersen, Donald Blake and Nobel Laureate F. Sherwood Rowland, who discovered that chlorofluorocarbons in aerosol cans and other products damage the ozone layer. That finding led to a worldwide ban on CFCs.

“Sulfuryl fluoride has a long enough lifetime in the atmosphere that we cannot just lose our eyes,” said Sulbaek Andersen, a postdoctoral researcher in the Rowland-Blake laboratory and co-author of the study. “The level in the atmosphere is rising fast, and it doesn’t seem to disappear very quickly.”

This study appeared online in Wednesday’s edition of Environmental Science and Technology.

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