Few people these days believe that television poisons the mind, but more and more scientists are growing concerned that plasma TVs may be poisoning the atmosphere.

That’s because a gas used in the manufacture of LCDs and plasma screens, nitrogen trifluoride, or NF3, has been implicated in global warming. In fact, NASA researchers believe NF3 is an even more potent hazard than carbon—possibly 17,000 times as effective as carbon gasses at trapping sunlight in the atmosphere.

Interestingly, NF3 was chosen because it was less polluting than carbon dioxide. Not because it’s a weaker greenhouse gas, or easier to contain close to earth. The Kyoto Protocol regulated carbon emissions, but some other pollutants weren’t regulated at all1. So factories located in Kyoto signatories could release as much NF3 as they needed to (which, admittedly, wasn’t much when Kyoto was drafted) without being considered polluters.

Researchers are working on other, non-polluting gasses that can be used in the process for which NF3 is used, or ways to make LCDs without using it at all. As LCD TVs and monitors become more and more ubiquitous, the need is becoming ever greater.


1Which is not to say it wasn’t a step in the right direction

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