Unapproved Refrigerant Substitutes Pose Fire and Explosion Risk
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is investigating instances in which propane has been illegally sold as a substitute for R-22, a refrigerant that is widely used in home air conditioning systems. Referred to by a variety of names, including R-22a, R-290, 22-A, HC-22a, and CARE 40, this unapproved product is propane-based and is illegally being marketed and sold as a substitute for R-22.
R-22a has never been submitted to the EPA for review of its health, safety, and environmental impacts. Even if it were, the EPA would likely not approve R-22a, because the EPA has never found acceptable any flammable hydrocarbon refrigerant for use in home air conditioning systems (though it has allowed some flammable hydrocarbon refrigerants to be used in industrial process refrigeration). This is because “use of flammables as a retrofit in equipment that was designed for nonflammable materials presents risks to consumers , to the equipment, and to service technicians who may not be prepared for handling flammable refrigerants.” Specifically, the use of the propane-based R-22a poses a potential fire or explosion hazard for homeowners and service technicians. In a news release, the agency said it is “aware of incidents that have occurred both overseas and in the U.S. where individuals have been injured as a result of the use of propane and other unapproved refrigerants in air conditioning systems.”
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