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DuPont Ozone Decision Has Others ‘Scrambling,’ Says Competitor

April 10, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Du Pont Co.’s call for an eventual end to production of ozone- destroying chemicals has other producers scrambling to decide what they should do, a competitor says.

Only one of six other companies in the field in the United States is following Du Pont so far.

Pennwalt Corp. announced an identical position to Du Pont’s on the same day - largely overlooked in the attention devoted to giant Du Pont’s announcement that it believes that chlorofluorocarbon compounds, CFCs, and related compounds should be phased out soon.

At the other end of the spectrum is Great Lakes Chemical Corp., which, says spokesman Gregory J. Griffiths, believes there is no reason to go beyond the international agreement of last fall to cut production of these chemicals.

At various positions in between are ICI Americas Corp., a subsidiary of Britain’s giant ICI Corp.; the Racon subsidiary of Essex Chemical Corp.; Great Lakes Chemical Corp.; Allied-Signal Corp. and Kaiser Chemical Corp.

Du Pont, Pennwalt, Racon, Allied-Signal and Kaiser make CFCs, used in the United States for refrigeration fluids, cleaning solvents in electronics manufacture and foam blowing agents. Overseas CFCs are also used as aerosol propellants.

Du Pont, ICI Americas and Great Lakes make related bromofluorocarbon compounds called halons used for fire-fighting. The effect of the halons on ozone is far more uncertain than the effect of CFCs. But some theoretical studies indicate they also could be powerful destruction agents.

The March 25 statements from Du Pont, the world’s largest CFC producer, and Pennwalt were the first from any company to go beyond the treaty endorsed by 31 nations in Montreal last fall. So far ratified only by the United States and Mexico, the treaty calls for a 50 percent cut in CFC production by 1998 and a freeze on halons in 1992.

The conclusions of the two companies were prompted by a March 15 report from a scientific panel organized by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration that CFCs appear to have caused an average 2.3 percent decline in the earth’s protective ozone layer at northern mid-latitudes between 1969 and 1986.

The ozone layer protects life on the ground from ultraviolet rays from the sun. The Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that a 1 percent decline in ozone means an eventual 4.8 percent to 7.5 percent increase in the most common skin cancers.

So far, NASA has released only a summary of the work of the panel. A call Friday to spokesmen for information on further release plans was not returned.

″We are waiting for the data,″ said Bill Corcoran of Allied-Signal in Morristown, N.J. ″We asked for it the day after (the summary) was released.″

Once the complete report is at hand, the company’s decision and those of others will ″probably be pretty quick,″ Corcoran said.

″Everybody is scurrying around trying to figure out what the right thing to do is,″ he said.

Du Pont’s statement was unqualified, saying, the company ″sets as its goal an orderly transition to the total phaseout of fully halogenated chloroflurocarbon production.″

″Fully halogenated″ means containing no hydrogen. Hydrogen makes the molecule break down before it can attack ozone.

Mike Harris, development manager for the chemicals in question at ICI Americas in Wilmington, Del., said he had to ″reserve more in-depth comment until we see the full report.″

ICI ranks just behind Du Pont as a CFC supplier overseas. Like Du Pont, it will urge governments everywhere it operates to ratify the Montreal agreement quickly, Harris said.

Griffiths of Great Lakes said in West Lafayette, Ind., ″Our position is consistent with where we were before Du Pont’s statement. ... We support the Montreal protocol.″

At Kaiser in Cleveland, Richard Watts, general manager for fluorocarbons, said, ″We’re not fully sure what Du Pont said.″ Asked if Kaiser agreed that CFCs should be phased out, Watts said, ″We support the Montreal protocol.″

At Pennwalt in Philadelphia, Lawrence J. Woodward said: ″We believe, as Du Pont does, that production of fully halogenated CFCs should be terminated as soon as practicable.″ But the world can’t do it ″tomorrow afternoon.″

Du Pont has said it may take five years before the paths to replacement chemicals and agreed international action become clear.

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