We can now add sulfuryl fluoride to the list of dangerous greenhouse gases hovering in our atmosphere. The compound was originally developed in the 1950s by Dow Chemical and is currently used to rid buildings of termites and pests. But sulfuryl fluoride’s reign as a fumigant may have come to an end.
Researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography at UC San Diego recently discovered that the gas has a lifetime of 36 years–eight years longer than previously thought. The Scripps team also found that one kilogram of sulfuryl fluoride released into the atmosphere has a global warming potential about 4,800 times greater than carbon dioxide.
There is good news, however–the researchers have caught on to sulfuryl fluoride’s dangerousness while it is still a minor problem. Only 2,000 metric tons of the gas are released into the atmosphere each year, while 30 billion metric tons of CO2 are released annually.
But with sulfuryl fluoride’s emission rates increasing 5 percent each year, the problem shouldn’t be ignored. And now there’s a pressing need to replace sulfuryl fluoride with a non-toxic alternative–a feat that would be a huge boon to any chemical company. Anyone up for the challenge?