Imported Refrigerant Could Be Hot Goods
By Erin Weaver
The ozone-depleting refrigerant HCFC-22 is being phased out in many countries under the Montreal Protocol, but a recent investigation in Florida indicates that illegal quantities are being smuggled into the U.S. and Europe. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency licenses companies to produce, purchase, or sell limited quantities of HCFC-22 (also known as R-22) for use in air conditioners, but the gas is still produced in large amounts in many countries, including China, India, and Mexico. While new air conditioners in the U.S. have not used HCFC-22 since 2010, large quantities are still needed to refill old equipment, and the limited supply of legal gas has created a black market for imports. The vice president of St. Louis-based Marcone, a manufacturer of appliance parts, was recently sentenced to 13 months in federal prison for importing unlicensed refrigerant, and shipments have been intercepted in eastern Europe. The smuggled gas canisters can be easily disguised by mislabeling, and inspections require expensive testing equipment.