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The Honeywell survey was carried out amongst city dwelers in Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam

SAUDI ARABIA: A new survey amongst end-users in Saudi Arabia has shown a widespread knowledge of and concern regarding the risks of fake and counterfeit refrigerants.

Worryingly, the Honeywell survey suggests a dilemma for end-users. While 98% of respondents said they would prefer brand-name refrigerants sold by authorised dealers if it would limit the risks posed by counterfeits, 9 out of 10 believe there are counterfeit refrigerants fraudulently labeled as brand-name, authentic refrigerants sold in Saudi Arabia.

The survey amongst 400 owners or operators of domestic and commercial air conditioners, car air conditioners or refrigerators revealed that 88% believe that counterfeit refrigerants can cause costly equipment failures, 64% believe that counterfeit refrigerants can be toxic and 75% believe they can be flammable.

Incidents around the world point to a significant danger from counterfeit refrigerants. In 2011, three refrigerated containers containing a counterfeit refrigerant exploded, killing three people. In 2012, an air conditioning unit in Brazil exploded due to a counterfeit refrigerant. Incidents involving  Greece, Germany, and Australia have also been reported.

Honeywell has fought the use of counterfeits for more than 10 years. In the last two years alone, local governments working with Honeywell are said to have seized more than 200,000 counterfeit products.

The survey, however, does not differentiate between counterfeit refrigerants in which sub-standard or dirty refrigerants are passed off as brand-name products, and counterfeit, branded or un-branded fakes, made from potentially dangerous cocktails, mixed to mimic mainstream gases.

The incidents in the container industry in 2011, for instance, involved a dangerous cocktail of R22 and methyl chloride, sold as R134a. In some cases flammable hydrocarbons were also found to be present. In China, it is commonplace for R12 to be sold as R134a for car air conditioning.

Trafficking hub

The Middle East has become a centre for trafficking in counterfeit refrigerants. In 2011, 6,000 counterfeit cylinders branded as Honeywell Genetron 134a were seized in one incident in the UAE. Although the actual contents were not specified, the cylinders were found to contain “dangerous toxic and flammable substances”. A further 3,500 cylinders of “Honeywell Genetron R134a” were seized by authorities in Saudi Arabia after being shipped to Dammam Port from China. The “R134a” was a later analysed and found to be a cocktail of R22, R152a and R12.