CONCERN has been expressed over the use of the halo-genated anaesthetics halothane (CF3CClBrH), enflurane (CF2HOCF2CFC1H) and isoflurane (CF2HOCHC1CF3) because of their potential for stratospheric ozone destruction1. Halogenated species also contribute to global warming2. The significance of the anaesthetics in stratospheric ozone loss or in 'greenhouse' heating depends on their atmospheric lifetimes. Because reaction with hydroxyl (OH) radicals is likely to be the main homogeneous sink for these species in the troposphere, we have measured absolute rates of reaction with OH. Comparison with a one-dimensional model3 indicates that the lifetimes of halothane, enflurane and isoflurane with respect to this reaction are 2, 6 and 5 years, respectively. Thus the small production of the anaesthetics is not offset by anomalously long atmospheric lifetimes to give a large atmospheric burden of the compounds. The anaesthetics will con-tribute at most a fraction of ∼5x 10-4 to the total atmospheric content of chlorine-containing species.
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Brown, A., Canosa-Mas, C., Parr, A. et al. Tropospheric lifetimes of halogenated anaesthetics. Nature 341, 635–637 (1989). https://doi.org/10.1038/341635a0
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