German engineering company Refolution Industriekälte has initiated a petition on change.org that urges European Union (EU) authorities to effectively allow only natural refrigerants to be used in new installations starting in 2022.

To that end, the petition asks the Council of the European Union, the European Commission (EC) and the European Parliament to expand the current F-Gas Regulation (517/2014) with bans on chemical (f-gas) refrigerants in new installations, including low-temperature applications under -50°C (-58°F), as of next year.

The petition also asks that a service ban – scheduled to start in 2030 – on installations using refrigerants with a GWP over 2,500 be followed by a service ban on all halogenated refrigerants beginning in 2040.

This year the EC is collecting stakeholder feedback on current F-Gas Regulation in preparation for the release of a proposed revision of the rulesin the fourth quarter. 

The petition – titled “Natural refrigerants only – No further harming of humans and nature” – can be read and signed here.

“Cooling technologies with natural refrigerants are already established,” Thomas Frank, CEO of Refolution, said. “[They are] safe for humans and nature – there is no need for HFOs or HFCs in the refrigeration business at all.”

The petition’s goal is to “to switch the whole refrigeration industry to natural refrigerants only, like propane, water and air, to stop the pollution of the environment with harmful substances and to stop harming of the human health,” Refolution writes on the petition’s page on change.org.

As an example of the damaging nature of the synthetic refrigerants, the petition mentions R23, often used in low-temperature applications, with a GWP of nearly 14,800. 

“That means 1kg of R23 has the same global warming potential [as] approximately 15 tonnes of CO2,” Frank said. “This is the same amount of CO2 a car would have emitted after driving two times around the globe.”

Warning on HFOs

While these high GWP HFC refrigerants are now being phased out, Refolution believes that their replacements, hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs), should not be employed, despite their lower GWPs. The most prevalent HFO, R1234yf, completely breaks down in the atmosphere to form trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), which descends to earth in rainfall. TFA’s long-term effect on human health and the environment is uncertain, and possibly deleterious.

“Before bringing tonnes of chemicals into the environment, it needs to be proven that they are harmless to human and the environment, especially regarding chemicals with high persistence such as TFA,” Frank said.

“There is no need for HFOs or HFCs in the refrigeration business at all,”

Thomas Frank, Refolution.

As a consequence of their stability, TFAs are accumulating in the environment. Studies have already shown an “alarming [rise] of concentrations” of TFAs in, for example, surface waters, ice and precipitation in China, Frank noted.

“With the current treatment methods TFA cannot be removed from our drinking water,” he cautioned. “The effects of these accumulations in the environment and the human health are not exactly known, but scientist and environmental agencies advocate a phase-out of HFOs.”

Refolution recently published a report suggesting that long-term exposure TFA can potentially damage the liver and the thyroid function in humans. Read more about the report here.

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