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Investigating Illegal Refrigerants

August 22, 2003
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WASHINGTON — The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy is cautioning the HVACR industry and the public to make sure that their chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant purchases are legal and to refuse to buy illegally imported refrigerants. The warning comes after reports that illegal HCFC imports may be on the rise, while illegal CFC imports are waning.

“The U.S. government has done an excellent job of finding 119 defendants guilty of illegally importing CFCs, and they are ready to prosecute anyone devising schemes to illegally import HCFCs,” said Dave Stirpe, executive director for the alliance.

HCFCs are used in new residential and commercial air conditioning and refrigeration and to service existing equipment. A production phaseout will occur over a period from 2003 to 2030 in developed countries. HCFCs are up to 98 percent less ozone-depleting than CFCs, but production and importation of virgin and used compounds are strictly controlled by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

According to Stirpe, the government can confiscate any illegally imported refrigerant, even if it is passed down through the marketplace, and prosecute individuals who knowingly buy the materials. The alliance also advises that purchasers of new HCFCs should verify that the importer is authorized to import HCFCs. Purchasers who question the legitimacy of an HCFC importer should request a copy of the EPA approval letter from the seller.

To report any violations regarding illegal imports, call the EPA at 800-296-1996 or U.S. Bureau of Customs & Border Protection at 800-232-5378.

Publication date: 08/25/2003

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