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U.S. MAY STEP UP ITS FIGHT AGAINST OZONE DEPLETION

SHARE U.S. MAY STEP UP ITS FIGHT AGAINST OZONE DEPLETION

The Bush administration says it will consider pushing for speeded-up action to combat damage to the Earth's ozone layer in the face of a United Nations report saying ozone depletion may cause a 10 percent increase in skin cancer in this decade.

William K. Reilly, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, said the United States already is ahead of the schedule required by U.S. laws and an international agreement for elimination of chlorofluorocarbons that trigger the chemical breakdown of ozone."We will meet next September with the other treaty parties and consider whether the phaseout schedule we are on is sufficient," Reilly said. "I think this data will cause us to look very hard at the possibility of advancing the phaseout dates."

The deadline in the treaty is the year 2000 for the United States and other developed countries and 2010 for the developing world. Mexico has agreed to a 2000 deadline, and Reilly said the United States hopes other developing countries will also do so.

Reilly commented in an interview Tuesday after the United Nations Environment Program announced in New York that damage to the ozone layer was accelerating at such a rate that levels could drop by 3 percent in the next decade, leading to a 10 percent increase in skin cancer.

"The situation is definitely getting much worse than what was expected," said Mostafa K. Tolba, director of the U.N. program.

Tolba also called for acceleration of the timetable for a CFC ban under the international agreement.

In the United States, CFCs are used primarily as coolants in air conditioners and refrigerators and as propellants in the production of foam plastics.

The researchers found that ozone was being depleted all across the northern and southern hemispheres in the spring and summer, which they said was not known to have happened before.