Study on environmental and health effects of HFO refrigerants

The Norwegian Environment Agency commissioned a report that compiles knowledge on health and environmental effects related to an increasing use of HFO refrigerants.

The use of traditional HFCs as refrigerants and in other applications will be phased down worldwide as a result of the Kigali amendment to the Montreal Protocol. An alternative is to use a new generation of HFCs with low global warming potential, so-called hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs).

These new synthetic substances have little effect on the climate because they degrade rapidly in the atmosphere, but there are some uncertainties related to other potential environmental and health effects of these substances.

The report, prepared by Risk and Policy Analysts, maps the expected future use of HFOs substances as refrigerants worldwide and how subsequent emissions and degradation products would affect the environment globally.

The project concluded that an increasing use of HFO refrigerants is expected to have a negligible effect on the environment. However, the project highlighted a number of knowledge gaps that need to be addressed during any future studies.

Many of these gaps concern the toxicity data for the degradation product, trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), being inadequate or missing, not allowing a thorough assessment of the effects this may have on the wider environment.

More research is also needed to fully understand the cycle of TFA in the atmosphere and hydrosphere.