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Business leaders call for international refrigerant regulations

In 2011, several refrigerated, reefer containers exploded in Vietnam, China and Brazil, killing three port workers. In 2015, in Tianjin, China, more than 100 people were killed as a result of undeclared hazardous materials being stored illegally.

Now, executives from Dupont, Honeywell, Linde and Wilhelmsen Ships Service are calling for an international ban on counterfeit refrigerants in a bid to attempt to minimize safety hazards.

Despite the efforts of leading manufacturers such as Honeywell, Linde and Dupont, which have taken legal action to crack down on counterfeiters and changed packaging to discourage fakes, counterfeit refrigerants remain an industry menace. Even elaborate precautions, such as holographic seals or cylinder stamps, are easily copied.

Counterfeit refrigerant cylinders typically consist of a dangerously unstable cocktail of gases, blended to roughly mimic the most common refrigerant, R-134a. These cylinders are often loaded with rogue gases such as R-40 containing highly volatile substances which exposed to air, can explode.

According to Svenn Jacobsen, technical product manager, refrigeration, for the Norway-based Wilhelmsen Ships Service, the absence of a worldwide ban has created a robust market for counterfeiters. “Cheap and untraceable, no counterfeiter is ever going to get any complaints from their customers using this type of packaging,” he remarked.

Jon Black, global head of chemicals and refrigerants, Linde Gases, suggests that operators only source refrigerants from well-known providers or companies who distribute the products for these main manufacturers. “If a new distributor appears on the market, we recommend operators conduct a thorough audit before making a purchase,” he commented.

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