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Statement at International Meeting on Chlorofluorocarbons

by Barbara Blum
[EPA press release - April 15, 1980]

I am today announcing that the United States will propose limiting the production of ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons to our 1979 production level. We expect that this action will hold U.S. production to about 551 million pounds per year. The exact figure will depend upon detailed 1979 production information obtained from U.S. industry. Total worldwide chlorofluorocarbon production in 1977 was about 1, 927 million pounds.

We in the U.S. are taking this step because of continuing studies showing that worldwide chlorofluorocarbon emissions jeopardize public health and the environment. For example, the most recent report by the U.S. National Academy of Sciences states that continued global emissions of chlorofluorocarbons, even if restricted to the 1977 level, most likely will lead to a 16 percent reduction in the earth's stratospheric ozone. Obviously, any growth above total world 1977 use levels will lead to greater ozone depletion. This, in turn, would create a 44 percent increase in the amount of harmful ultraviolet radiation reaching the earth's surface. Such radiation would lead to thousands of additional cases of human melanoma skin cancer -- which often is fatal -- and hundreds of thousands of additional cases of the non-melanoma variety. This radiation would also cut production of wheat, corn, soybeans, and rice and of commercially important fish such as anchovies, mackerel, shrimp, and crab.

In combination with effects predicted to occur as a result of increased combustion of fossil fuels, continued release of chlorofluorocarbons at current levels could also contribute to a potentially dangerous warming of the earth's atmosphere, altering climate and possible even partially melting the polar icecaps.

Imposing a production ceiling in the United States is neither the first, nor the last, step to control chlorofluorocarbons. In 1978, EPA and other U.S. government agencies issued rules to phase out the aerosol propellant uses of the substance in products such as deodorants, pesticides and furniture polish.

The action I am announcing today conveys the urgent and deep concern of the U.S. about the threat chlorofluorocarbons continue to pose. Our country is moving forward now because we believe that chlorofluorocarbons comprise one of the leading international environmental issues of the decade.

The results of our meeting here in Oslo these past two days assures that international progress toward protecting the ozone layer by controlling chlorofluorocarbons will continue. It must. Action by the U.S. or any other single country -- regardless of how severe -- will never eliminate the problem. Rapid, parallel actions by all chlorofluorocarbon producing nations are needed soon. Indeed, the other countries represented at this conference consider reducing chlorofluorocarbon emissions a desirable objective and agree to work toward comparable goals through whatever means are available.

Some nations have taken action. Sweden and Norway have banned the use of chlorofluorocarbons as aerosol propellants. Canada's ban on chlorofluorocarbon propellants will be effective this May. And at this conference, Canada welcomed the newest U.S. initiative and agreed to consider taking similar steps. The European Economic Community (EEC) recently endorsed a 30 percent reduction from 1976 levels of aerosol use for each of its nine member nations. This reduction is to be reached by June 1981. The EEC has also curtailed new investments in chlorofluorocarbon production facilities.

All in all, these are first steps. More are needed.

The issues involved to effectively control chlorofluorocarbons are complex. Nevertheless, the strong potential for serious health and environmental effects on a global scale dictates that we act. This conference is an important step towards achieving agreement by nations around the world to curb chlorofluorocarbons and the dangers they pose.

Barbara Blum was Deputy Administrator.

The International Meeting on Chlorofluorocarbons convened in Oslo, Norway.