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Call for ban on refrigerant recharge cans

USA: The US Environmental Protection Agency is being petitioned to ban sales of “consumer recharge cans” of refrigerant as part of its rule making to restrict the use of HFCs.

The Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development (IGSD) has petitioned the EPA to consider replication of the “common-sense restrictions” contained in the recently passed Washington House Bill 1050. 

The Washington bill states that no person may sell, offer for sale, or purchase “a substitute with a GWP greater than 150 or a regulated refrigerant in a container designed for consumer recharge of a motor vehicle air conditioning system or consumer appliance during repair or service”. 

Similar anomalies exist in other parts of the world, where, despite growing restrictions on the purchase of HFCs by the professional trade, consumers can freely buy car air conditioning recharge kits. In Europe and the UK, for instance, the F-gas regulations prohibits both the purchase and use of HFC refrigerants without the necessary accreditation/licence. Yet, car accessory shops in many EU states are still free to sell vehicle air conditioning “top-up” gas to the general public.

In the US, EPA rules require cans to have a self-sealing valve, but only on cans with refrigerant intended to recharge a system. The IGSD argues that recharging a leaky mobile air conditioning system does not solve the problem – it needs to be actually fixed. 

“Banning consumer recharge containers will also increase safety,” the IGSD says in its petition, which is still under review by the EPA. It claims that a number of “refrigerant” products are currently being sold to do-it-yourselfers that do not contain the correct refrigerant, creating a safety hazard when put into automotive systems not designed for them. 

“One industry site recently issued a warning that consumer recharge containers reportedly contain a cocktail of illegal and ozone depleting refrigerants,” the IGSD claims. 

“The US Environmental Protection Agency has also warned of highly flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants—not approved for use in any vehicle air conditioning system—being marketed for use in systems designed for HFC-134a,” the group points out.

“Consumers who use these products also put future vehicle owners in harm’s way if they sell their vehicle, as well as service technicians who may be called upon to repair the system or remove refrigerant at the vehicle’s end-of-life. Improper DIY repair can also contaminate and damage the refrigerant recovery and recycling equipment used by professionals, costing small businesses thousands of dollars.”

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