After the University of California at Irvine calculations appeared in Nature magazine in the summer of 1974, manufacturers of aerosols and aerosol products responded vigorously. They wouldn't hear of a chlorofluorocarbon ban, as Rowland had suggested, because the calculations were nothing more than a paper exercise in the industry's eyes. Further, they said, no real evidence had been offered that the heavy chlorofluorocarbon molecules ever reached the stratosphere, or, if they did, that they were destroying the ozone layer.
Industry's concern was understandable. In 1974, the chlorofluorocarbon and satellite industries employed more than a million people, and if the calculations of the two chemists were correct they could seriously wound an industry that contributed an estimated $100 billion to the economy. Corporate giants, such as E. I. duPont de Nemours & Company, which sold $183 million worth of the propellants in 1974 (2.6 percent of its total sales), would undoubtedly weather the loss, but Racon, a smaller company, which derived 36 percent of its revenues from the chlorofluorocarbons, would not fare nearly as well if a ban were suddenly declared.
To counter the Rowland-Molina projections, the aerosol industry--most noticeably represented by duPont--came up with its own models of what might be happening to the chlorofluorocarbons. One alternative, now more or less debunked by laboratory findings and stratospheric measurements, proposed that after the aerosols are broken down by ultraviolet light, they react preferentially with other atmospheric components, rather than with the molecules of the ozone layer. However, after looking at all the evidence accumulated over the last two years, the NAS panel concluded that the chlorofluorocarbons were doing just about what the two California chemists predicted they would do.
The NAS committee report stopped short of recommending a ban on the aerosol propellants, suggesting that since the ozone layer would be depleted by only 0.2 percent in the next two years, and because many questions about the chemistry of the ozone layer were still unanswered, it would be safe to wait that long before implementing such a ban. However, the FDA and EPA actions, which are still subject to several months of public hearings on both sides of the question, make a ban a near certainty even before two years. Meanwhile, both government agencies call for interim warning labels on all products containing the chlorofluorocarbon propellants.
Even without the compulsions of a formal ban, a steady dropoff in chlorofluorocarbon production within the last year indicates that the industry has already been affected by what may be happening in the stratosphere. The American Can Company saw its spray can sales decline by 25 percent, while a company which made a billion valves for aerosol cans in 1975 cut production in 1976 by 40 percent. The scramble away from the chlorofluorocarbons is also evident in the trend toward, roll-on deodorants and new kinds of dispensers, including pump tops and squeeze sprays. The switchover has meant increased profits for many other companies, including the Thiokol Corporation of Newton, Pennsylvania, which recently took orders for 25 million of its new non-pressurized trigger spray cans. Recognizing that the chlorofluorocarbons were no longer good business, the S. C. Johnson Company in Racine, Wisconsin, jumped the gun on the competition and announced with full-page newspaper ads that it was switching to hydrocarbon propellants, which presumably have no effect on the ozone layer. Finally, a duPont scientist recently conceded that his company is also looking for replacements for chlorofluorocarbons, but that the two most likely candidates discovered so far are too toxic to be considered for human use.