Increasing levels of nitrogen trifluoride use, as so heavily used in the North Pacific electronics market, may be having a negative effect on the environment and actually speeding-up climate change, according to the findings of a recent journal study.

LCD TV’s for example, are praised as being greener than old-style television sets because they consume much less power, and represent a significant market sector in North Pacific rim countries such as Japan, China and Taiwan.

These may actually be speeding climate change though, a chemical expert has warned.

Michael Prather of the University of California at Irvine has completed a study which claims that atmospheric quantities of the gas nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) are booming, reporting the findings in the latest issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

NF3 is apparently 17,200 times better at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a hundred-year period than carbon dioxide, the best known greenhouse gas. NF3 has a characteristic mouldy smell and is also thought to be highly harmful to the liver and kidneys.

The chemical is used in the production of flat-panel displays which, in turn, are used to make today’s TV screens. Prather believes that exploding demand for HD TV’s around the world has created a huge need for NF3, and that’s effectively sending emission levels sky high.

The problem as Prather sees it, is that NF3 emission levels aren’t being measured by the worldwide greenhouse-gas monitoring programme put in place by the Kyoto Protocol on climate change. When the agreement was signed by 181 countries in 1997, NF3 wasn’t included on the list of gases that should be tracked because at that time the compound's manufacture was miniscule.

The compound’s increasing use in flat-panel display production has changed this however, with NF3’s global-warming potential regarded as second only to sulphur hexafluoride (SF6) – supposedly the ‘nastiest’ greenhouse gas on the Kyoto list.

The electronics sector accounts for a high 70% of the demand in Taiwan, with the severe competition in pricing to win contracts ensuring that the market is naturally dropping, especially so in the case of LCD.