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Buyer Beware: Be On the Lookout For Illegal CFCs and HCFCs

The Alliance for Responsible Atmospheric Policy has cautioned refrigerant users to be certain that their chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) and hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant purchases are legal, and to refuse to buy illegally imported refrigerants.

The warning came amid reports that illegal HCFC imports may be on the rise, even as illegal CFC imports are waning.

“The U.S. government . . . [is] ready to prosecute and fine anyone devising schemes to illegally import HCFCs,” states Dave Stirpe, executive director of the Alliance.

CFC-based refrigerant is becoming more scarce due to its 1996 production phaseout under U.S. law and international treaty. Legally stockpiled, recycled, or reclaimed CFC refrigerants may be used to service existing equipment.

A production phaseout of HCFCs will occur between 2003 - 2030 in developed countries, and by 2040 in developing countries. Production and import of virgin and used HCFC compounds are strictly controlled by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulation.

"Purchasers of the illegal refrigerant are at risk. The government may confiscate any illegally imported refrigerant, even if it has been passed down through the marketplace, and prosecute purchasers who knowingly buy illegal material," Stirpe said.

Purchasers of new HCFCs should verify that their 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.

Importers of used HCFCs must obtain prior written approval from EPA and the government representing the country of origin.

In order to report any violations regarding illegal imports, call the EPA at 800/296-1996; or U.S. Customs at 800/BE-ALERT.

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