Poses serious hazards and warrants stringent deterrents
An article in Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Magazine (Rac) titled “Industry Warned Over Counterfeit Refrigerants”, has reported that the threat of counterfeit refrigerants is on the rise, with fake products now sourced from the Far East and making inroads into Europe, according to the British Refrigeration Association (BRA).
The article quotes BRA as evidence: “At best, the counterfeit refrigerants found in the EC contain a mixture of illegal HCFC and CFC products; at worst they may contain methyl chloride, which has already had deadly consequences in the Reefer industry. Adulterated refrigerant has frequently caused poor equipment performance and mechanical breakdown.”
BRA’s statement apparently alludes to the explosions across several continents last year, especially the one in Cat Lai, Vietnam, where container explosions resulted in two fatalities.
The cause of the incidents was most probably counterfeit refrigerant that contained methyl chloride, rather than pure HFC-134a, as per the conclusions drawn by Cambridge Refrigeration Technology, which investigated the explosions, Rac said.
BRA is reportedly concerned by the disturbing trend and, to quote Rac, is “urging all users of refrigerants to check with their supplier for EU laboratory analysis results and/or proof of conformity”.
In a classic case of expedience over ethics and price winning against quality, the low-cost counterfeit refrigerants are said to be often sold in cylinders with dubious labels.
“Additionally where offers include an exchange for cylinders not owned by the supplying company, users need to be aware that they will remain liable for cylinder charges including the cost of the cylinder if it is not returned to the original refrigerant supplier,” said Rac, quoting BRA.
According to the news story, closer home, DuPont Refrigerants recently succeeded in shutting down a suspected trader of counterfeit refrigerants in the UAE after a protracted tussle, with the trader having links to counterfeit refrigerant gases in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan.
“In late 2007, a suspected trader of counterfeit refrigerants was identified in a market survey. In 2008, purchases were made on behalf of DuPont in the UAE, and DuPont confirmed the goods as counterfeits.
The counterfeits were found in cylinders of R-22 refrigerant gas that were illegally branded with the DuPont Freon trademark in a warehouse operated by the trader,” Rac said, giving details of the case.
DuPont evidently filed complaints with law enforcement agencies and the police conducted raids and seized counterfeit refrigerant cylinders and other incriminating evidence. DuPont’s persistency appears to have paid off and resulted in the erring party’s warehouse being sealed and the owner being put behind bars.
Such prompt and decisive action by the big players in the industry, coupled with stringent punishment and wide media coverage will together, hopefully, act as a deterrent to the rampant sale of counterfeit refrigerants.