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Termite Killer Contributes To Global Warming

Audio

Aired 4/20/09

A gas commonly used to exterminate termites and other pests stays in the atmosphere much longer than researchers expected.  A UC-San Diego study shows  the chemical is a potent greenhouse gas. KPBS Environment Reporter Ed Joyce has details.

A Scripps Institution of Oceanography atmospheric chemist detected an unknown compound from air samples taken at the Scripps Pier five years ago.

Jens Mühle identified the compound as sulfuryl fluoride.  

He guessed the fumigation of nearby buildings was responsible.

But by expanding the sampling around the world, researchers discovered the termite killer lingers in the atmosphere as a greenhouse gas for 36 years.

Mühle: The amounts which are put in the atmosphere are relatively small. So we're not creating a huge problem by doing this.

But Mühle says because of the longer lifetime, large amounts should not be emitted into the atmosphere.

He says the emissions each year are far lower than those of carbon dioxide, so the impact on global warming is smaller by comparison.

The sulfuryl flouride replaced a chemical that was phased out because it was found to deplete the ozone layer.

Ed Joyce, KPBS News.

 

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