A CFC mystery
Emissions of the ozone-depleting chemical CFC11 have risen in the past five years despite an international ban, according to a recent research study published in Nature. Although the source of the emissions remains a mystery, scientists believe the measurements may reflect illegal production.
Manufacturers began to use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in the 1930s as aerosol spray propellants, solvents, and refrigerants. These chemicals can remain in the atmosphere for up to 50 years. In the early 1970s, scientists began to understand that CFCs can destroy the ozone layer that protects the Earth from harmful radiation.
When scientists discovered an ozone hole over Antarctica in 1987, countries around the world agreed to ban the use of these chemicals. As emissions fell, the hole in the ozone began to shrink. But, much to the bewilderment of scientists, in 2013 emissions of CFC11, the second most common CFC, started to rise and now measure at the same level they did 20 years ago. Since 2006 most countries reported close to zero production of CFC11, but the study found a release of about 14,300 tons annually over the past five years.
“It’s the most surprising and unexpected observation I’ve made in my 27 years of measurements,” Stephen Montzka, lead author of the study, said in a statement.
Measurements indicate the emissions appear to come from East Asia, Nature reported. Ross Salawitch, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Maryland, blamed the emissions on “rogue production” and noted that if it continued, “the recovery of the ozone layer would be threatened.”
Because nature removes 2 percent of the total amount of CFC11 from the air each year, atmospheric concentrations of the chemical continue to fall despite the increase of emissions, Montzka said, but the decrease is much slower than scientists expected. —J.B.
Plastic surgeons grow ear in an arm
Plastic surgeons at William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas, grew an ear in the arm of a 19-year-old soldier who completely lost hers in a car accident. It is the first time the Army has performed this type of total ear reconstruction.
The surgeons harvested cartilage from the soldier’s ribs and formed it into a new ear. Then they placed the cartilage under the skin of the patient's forearm to allow it to grow and form blood vessels and nerves. When the process is complete, they will remove it from the patient’s arm and transplant it. After rehabilitation, the patient’s ear should possess feeling and look close to normal.
“The whole goal is by the time she’s done with all this, it looks good, it’s sensate, and in five years if somebody doesn’t know her they won't notice,” chief surgeon Lt. Col. Owen Johnson III said in a statement. —J.B.
Millions of babies saved
James Harrison, an Australian man affectionately known as the “Man with the Golden Arm,” regularly made blood donations over the past half-century that helped save the lives of an estimated 2.4 million babies, The New York Times reported.
At age 14, Harrison required surgery and life-saving blood transfusions. When he became an adult he decided to become a blood donor out of gratitude and despite a fear of needles. Then medical professionals discovered his blood contained a rare antibody required to make a medication to save the lives of babies in danger of developing hemolytic disease, a potentially fatal condition. Only about 160 donors with the rare antibody exist in Australia.
Now after 1,173 blood donations in the past six decades, doctors say the 81-year-old needs to stop donating for the sake of his own health. —J.B.