EIA at 40 – exposing the international trade in chemicals which were ravaging the ozone layer

In the countdown to EIA’s 40th anniversary later this year, we are featuring films and stories from our archive, highlighting our work exposing environmental crime and abuse around the world. 

Today, we’re sharing a flashback to a film we made in 2005 to accompany our report Under the Counter, a major Climate team investigation into the illicit production and trade of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the chemical responsible for the hole in the ozone layer.


The success and integrity of the Montreal Protocol – the international treaty designed to protect the ozone layer and agreed in 1987 – was being undermined by a global illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances (ODS) as illicit production of CFCs posed a growing threat.

Despite the efforts of the Chinese authorities to control illegal ODS production and smuggling, the country at that time remained the world’s major source of illegal ODS.

EIA’s investigations revealed that chemical dealers and brokers in China routinely circumvented Government controls, mislabelling and mis-declaring CFCs in order to smuggle them around the world.

Some developed countries were still receiving shipments of CFCs from China almost 10 years after consumption was phased out under the Montreal Protocol.

We concluded that the Protocol had failed to address the problem of illegal trade in any coherent manner and that its licensing system for controlling ODS trade was ineffective and urgently needed to be overhauled and improved.