Goodbye CFCs, HFCs
Hello organic, non-toxic, earth friendly
April 5, 2002 - Rathdrum, Idaho--Compressor
and appliance manufacturers all over the world are beginning to
market lines of products designed to accommodate hydrocarbon (HC)
blend refrigerants. HC blends are thermally efficient, non-toxic
and environmentally friendly where their synthetic counterparts
are less efficient coolers, toxic to people and damaging to the
HCs are the class of naturally-occurring
substances that include propane, pentane and butane.
The Freon-dependent world was thrust
into a dilemma in 1996 when production of the world's most commonly
used refrigerant was banned in developed countries for its link
to stratospheric ozone depletion. The immediate answer to the international
refrigeration dilemma was to replace ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons
(CFCs) with HFC-134a-a greenhouse gas.
It turns out that HFC-134a's potential for causing environmental
damage is just the beginning of its inadequacy as a replacement
for Freon. Field experience has shown it to be thermally inefficient,
energy consumptive and corrosive to compressor parts. A 1998 study
conducted at Wright Patterson AFB in Ohio found that HFC-134a can
be deathly toxic to humans who inhale it at levels at or above 4
parts per million.
Just as the phase out of ozone depleting substances was scheduled
in 1987 by an international agreement called the Montreal Protocol,
the phase out of greenhouse gases was scheduled at a 1998 environmental
conference in Kyoto, Japan. Though the U.S. did not sign the Kyoto
Accord, nations from Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Australia
did. As a result, use of refrigeration systems and air conditioners
that contain environmentally damaging refrigerant gases is being
discouraged in many countries. In response to support from their
governments and to meet demands for environmentally sound cooling
and refrigeration, industry in those countries is retooling to accommodate
HC blend refrigerants.
Greenpeace International, which has strongly advocated the use of
HC blend refrigerants for over a decade, has compiled a list of
manufacturers worldwide that are currently producing or plan to
produce appliances designed to accommodate HC blend refrigerants.
Unilever, Coca-Cola, DeLonghi, Matsushita, Sanyo, Bosch/Siemens
and Electrolux are just a few of the most well known companies that
will market product lines that use HC blend refrigerants.
"Hitachi has also announced that it will be selling hydrocarbon
refrigerators in Japan in 2002, and it is expected that other major
Japanese producers will follow suit in the near future," said
The Greenpeace list also names numerous universities, office complexes,
hospitals, supermarket chains and businesses worldwide that have
converted to HC blend cooling and refrigeration.
U.S. policy with regard to refrigerants and refrigeration is lagging
behind the rest of the world. This is largely due to political pressure
from a variety of pro-HFC groups that are closely linked to the
company that held the original patent for Freon and currently holds
the patent for HFC-134a-Dupont. However, as Greenpeace observed,
Japanese products are readily available to U.S. consumers and it
is only a matter of time before Hitachi HC blend refrigerators are
marketed in the states.
Domestically-produced, HFC-134a cooling and refrigeration systems
will be forced to compete with their more efficient, organic and
non-toxic HC blend import counterparts. At that time American compressor
and appliance manufacturers will have little choice but to follow
the environmentally responsible lead that has been taken by the
international refrigeration industry.