MIDDLE EAST - Reputable refrigerant manufacturers and distributors continually caution contractors to check and be sure of the purity and legality of the refrigerants they purchase. They suggest two ways to do so: Stay with brand names accessed through respected channels and be aware that if a price seems too low, the refrigerant could be suspect.

These reminders are drawing special attention with the announcement in May by DuPont's United Kingdom operation that there is "a concern over the prevalence of counterfeit R-134a refrigerant within the Middle East."

Although labeled as R-134a, the refrigerant also includes R-12, R-22, and hydrocarbons (HCs). R-12, as a CFC, will be phased out in the Middle East by 2009. HCs are used in many countries outside North America, but some have a flammability issue.

In commenting on the bogus R-134a, Phil Bardsley, business manager for DuPont Fluorochemicals, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, said, "It is not only flammable and thus dangerous for those working directly with the refrigerant, but it contains ozone-depleting substances such as R-12 and therefore does not support the phaseout of CFCs.

"Moreover, we have witnessed cases where its use has damaged components in vehicle air conditioning systems," he said. "These products are packaged to resemble genuine branded products. It is a blatant case of trademark abuse and counterfeiting."

Bardsley said current investigations indicate the product in question is originating in China and destined for the Middle East "due to the region's large scale requirements for R-134a for use in air conditioning systems, driven by a booming construction market."

DuPont is also working with environmental protection agencies and local custom officials in the Middle East to identify and ban the import of such illegal refrigerants.

"DuPont is setting up a taskforce to aid in dealing with the issue, including facilitating communication and cooperation between local authorities and improving access to equipment for analysis and identification of these products," Bardsley said.

Publication date: 06/05/2006