Just when we thought that the threat to the ozone layer is over, it rears it head again. Vast forest fires in Indonesia over the last year have produced a large cloud of an ozone-destroying chemical, claims an international team of researchers. Methyl bromide, an agricultural fungicide targeted under the 1987 Montreal Protocol an ozone-depleting substances, has been found in massive quantities in the region. Last year, several industrialized countries agreed to phase out methyl bromide by the year 2004, while developing countries agreed to phase it out by 2014. However, a survey of the Indonesian island of Sumatra in November 1997 found that atmospheric levels of the chemical, released by the massive bunting, had gone up to as much as 230 parts per trillion near the site of the fires. This is 10 times the level found over the sea. The researchers said they are concerned about what impact the cloud will have on local residents. The survey also provides direct evidence that forest fires can have a large effect on the global atmosphere, the scientists said recently. The team included researchers from two Japanese ministries and a few meteorological agencies from Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.
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