New curbs on ozone-depleting chemicals take shape

A ban on new uses of ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and halons looks certain to be imposed among industrialised nations by 1 January 1996 at the latest following an official meeting in Geneva during April. The same phase-out deadline is also on the cards for methyl chloroform, a solvent widely used in industry, and the regulatory net may be extended for the first time to methyl bromide, a common fumigant. But uncertainty will persist at least until the end of 1992 on what will be defined as "essential" uses in which these chemicals may be consumed beyond the phase-out deadlines, and how fiercely and in what way the HCFCs - regarded by many industries as vital to the transition away from the most potent ozone depleters - will be regulated.

The Geneva meeting was the latest in a series which is keeping the global Montreal Protocol on protection of the ozone layer under continuous review. The key meeting this year will be in November, when the Protocol will be up for amendment.

Recent scientific findings have given added urgency to the review process. These indicate that ozone depletion, already substantial over Antarctica and adjoining areas in the spring and summer, is also

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