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Happy gas turns nasty, destroying ozone layer

Friday January 9, 2009

New research has shown that nitrous oxide, known as happy gas, is one of the largest ozone-depleting substance in the atmosphere.

A paper published in the journal Science has explained that the increasing levels of the gas will cause greater damage to the ozone later than the more common substance chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs).

The research showed that emissions of nitrous oxide are currently present in large amounts that it is posing as a serious threat as the most destructive ozone-depleting substance in the 21st century.

US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Dr A Ravishankara told the ABC that an international treaty has stemmed the use of CFCs, however nitrous oxide remains unregulated.

"Currently ozone depletion in the stratosphere is largely due to the chlorofluorocarbons that have been already put in the atmosphere," he said.

"But if you continue to put nitrous oxide it will contribute more and more to the ozone layer depletion in the future."

Dr Ravishankara also said that scientists knew nitrous oxide causes damage to the ozone layer, however the results of the study showed it impacted more greatly than what they had presumed.

Nitrous oxide has been used by Australian doctors and dentists as an anaesthetic for over 160 years.

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