Why Was R-22 Freon Banned?

This is a question we get a lot here at RefrigerantHQ and I thought I would take some time today to lay it all out and answer everyone’s questions. First, let’s take a look at R-22 Freon itself. R-22 is an HCFC refrigerant, also known as a HydroChloroFluroCarbons. These HCFC refrigerants along with CFC refrigerants were some of the very first mainstream refrigerants seen across the world.

R-12 and R-22 along with other CFC/HCFC refrigerants were invented back in the 1930’s as the result of a partnership between the DuPont company and the General Motors corporation. These new refrigerants checked all of the boxes for them to be a mainstream refrigerant. Other competing refrigerants such as Ammonia, Carbon Dioxide, and Hydrocarbons all had their own problems that limited their application usage. It could be their toxicity, their flammability, their operating pressures, or just their overall cost. Either way they were not feasible for widespread use.

The CFC and HCFC refrigerants were the key to a global refrigerant and air conditioning world. It didn’t take long for their usages to explode across the globe. By the time the 1980’s hit there were air conditioners and refrigerators all across the globe and they were nearly all using CFC or HCFC refrigerants like R-22.

It was at this same time that a team of scientists began to notice that the Ozone layer was beginning to weaken and that there was a hole forming. The Ozone layer is a layer in the Earth’s Stratosphere that acts as a shield from ultraviolet radiation. Without it we would all be exposed to much more intense radiation that could result in increases of skin cancers and other ailments.

Alarmed at their findings the scientists alerted their governments about the problem. This eventually led to a global meeting of hundreds of countries in Montreal, Quebec. During this meeting a treaty was signed by all countries. This treaty became known as the Montreal Protocol. The treaty aimed at phasing down and phasing out various types of chemicals and agents that were contributing to the damage of the Ozone layer.

Included in these chemicals to be phased out were CFC and HCFC refrigerants such as R-22. The first refrigerant to be phased out was R-12. In the early 1990’s the phase out began. At that time R-12 was used widely in automobiles. There was a set model year where there would be a hard stop across the country. When that date came no new vehicles would be using R-12 and would instead be transitioned over to the HFC refrigerant R-134a. (R-134a does not harm the Ozone layer.)

As time went on there were other refrigerants phased down and eventually banned. On January 1st, 2010 is when the scheduled phase down of R-22 began. Like with other phase downs the steps would be gradual. R-22 was used ALL over the country in nearly every home and commercial air conditioner. To completely remove R-22 from the country would take time.

While the phase down plan began in 2010 it would not end for another ten years. Yes, the final stage of the phase down for R-22 is January 1st, 2020. On this date no new R-22 refrigerant can be manufactured or imported into the United States. In the between years there have been restrictions to what’s allowed to be imported or produced but the solid stop hard date is 2020.

Conclusion

In conclusion folks R-22 was banned from the US due to the damage that it caused to the Ozone layer when the refrigerant was vented into the atmosphere. The Chlorine within this HCFC refrigerant is what did the damage. Today’s refrigerants like HFC refrigerants do not contain Chlorine and thusly no longer do any damage to the Ozone.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

RefrigerantHQ

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