Developing the perfect technique for food preservation has been a long and tedious journey. The first attempts included the use of salt and spices to keep food fresh longer, however, the use of ice soon took over. Snow and ice was harvested using saws and axes and were placed in ice houses or basements to be used to preserve foods or to keep beverages cool. This laborious and exhausting procedure was in dire need of an easier preservation method. In 1755 William Cullen designed a small refrigerant system in which a pump created a partial vacuum over a container. This machine, however, only created a small amount of ice and had no practical use. Many other inventions and prototypes had been tested until finally, around 1851, an applicable refrigerant machine was invented. The common use of molecules such as ammonia, ether, sulfur dioxide, etc. were good refrigerants, however they had many side effects. They were either poisonous, fire hazardous, decomposed easily, or had an horrible odor. Soon chlorofluorocarbons,or CFCs, were used as they seemed to be the perfect refrigerant. They were extremely stable and did not have any of the downsides of the other molecules.
Chlorocarbon compounds had many general uses such as electrical insulators, circuit breakers, coolants, insecticides and, in the case of CFCs, as popular refrigerants. Soon, however, it was discovered that these seemingly wonderful and harmless compounds had a drastic side effect. Due to their high stability, once seen as an attractive characteristic, it became apparent that they have a harsh effect on the environment. Since they react with nearly nothing, they rose into the atmosphere and acted as a catalyst for the decomposition of the ozone. The ozone protects the world and its inhabitants from the dangerous UV rays given off by the sun. The many chlorocarbon compounds in the atmosphere caused the ozone layer to be thrown out of equilibrium. For every one percent of ozone depletion, two percent more of the harmful UV rays reach the surface of the earth. Not long after the recognition of this outcome, chlorocarbon compounds were banned.
The authors of Napoleon’s Buttons provided many examples of both the perks and flaws of the variety of chlorocarbon compounds, and sufficiently show the historical development and the reasoning behind the outcome. In my opinion, chlorocarbon compounds were an important step in developing a better understanding of the uses of these compounds and helped society apply this knowledge to use other, more suitable compounds for the task. However the drastic impact on the ozone layer has long-lasting effects and could cause future environmental problems, such as a higher rate of global warming. Overall, these compounds had, and still have, a huge impact on the world in which we live.