The Ozone Layer

The ozone layer is the Earth's natural sunscreen, filtering out harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun. UV rays can cause damage to humans and other forms of life.

Although the ozone layer is high up in the atmosphere, chemical substances used at the surface of the planet can damage it.  If the ozone layer is damaged, UV rays can get through and cause damage to humans and other forms of life.

Therefore, the ozone layer must be protected from these chemicals so that it can recover from the damage over many years.

One of the chemicals used that damages the ozone layer is a refrigerant gas known as R22. This gas (a hydrochlorofluorocarbon or HCFC) is one of the last remaining ozone depleting substances that is in common use. However, the use of R22 for service and maintenance is now banned.

A series of guidance leaflets has been produced to provide more information. 

Who protects it?

The Montreal Protocol is considered to be the most successful global environmental agreement setting out commitments by every country in the world to eliminate production and use of the chemicals that damage the ozone layer.  The effectiveness of the Montreal Protocol is monitored by the Ozone Secretariat of the United Nations Environment Programme.

2012 marked the 25th anniversary of the Montreal Protocol and 16th September each year is designated as International Day for Preservation of the Ozone Layer. To mark the 25th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol, the European Union's Commissioner for Climate Action, Commissioner Connie Hedegaard, prepared a short video.

The European Union is marching ahead in terms of phasing out the chemicals that damage the ozone layer, known as ozone depleting substances (ODS), through a law that is stricter than the Montreal Protocol.  The most recent legislation was published in October 2009.

In Ireland the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for making sure the European law is implemented and properly enforced.  Certain responsibilities have also been given to the following organisations to assist the EPA:

  • Department of Agriculture and Food
  • Department of Transport (Maritime Safety Directorate)
  • The Revenue Commissioners (Customs Division)

The EPA and these other organisations continue to work together to increase awareness in the various sectors involved in handling ozone depleting substances and to ensure compliance with the law.

Ozone Depleting Substances

There is a list of more than 20 substances that are controlled by the European law on ozone depleting substances and there are bans and restrictions on their production, import, export, placing on the market, use, recovery, recycling, reclamation and destruction.  These substances are grouped and their common historical uses are presented for information:

  • CFC and HCFCs - mostly  used in refrigeration, air conditioning and heat pump systems.  Only HCFCs can continue to be used for a limited period of time.
  • Halons -  used historically as fire suppression agents and fire fighting, but now only allowed in very limited situations
  • Carbon tetrachloride (Tetrachloromethane) - limited solvent use in laboratories and chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
  • 1,1,1,-trichloroethane -  limited solvent use in laboratories and chemical and pharmaceutical industry.
  • Methyl bromide -  historically used in fumigation, soil treatment, pest control, quarantine, market gardening.  Methyl bromide is no longer registered for use in Ireland.
  • Hydrobromofluorocarbons - historically used in fire suppression systems and fire fighting.
  • Bromochloromethane  - historically used in the manufacture of biocides.

European Law

The European Regulation controlling ozone depleting substances came into effect in January 2010, having replaced the previous Regulation from 2000.  Regulation (EC) No. 1005/2009 introduces a number of extra requirements relating to leak checking, reporting, import and export licensing etc.

Contacts

Ozone Depleting Substances
Environmental Protection Agency
Johnstown Castle Estate
Co Wexford
Tel: (053) 91 60600
Fax: (053) 91 60699
email: ods@epa.ie

Learn More

Find out more about the ban on R22

Read more about the 25th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

View Commissioner Connie Hedegaard's video on the 25th Anniversary of the Montreal Protocol

Read EPA Enforcement update for ODS and F-gases

Download a copy of the ODS Regulation - Regulation 1005/2009

Download a copy of the Irish ODS Regulations (S.I. No 465 of 2011)

Download our guidance.

Check out the list of ozone depleting substances  

Check various uses of ozone depleting substances

Read about the European Union's actions to protect the ozone layer

Read a summary of  European legislation on ODS

Visit the Ozone Secretariat  of the United Nations Environment Programme

Visit the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government ozone pages