Hydrofluoroolefins (HFOs) have had a significant positive impact on the environment. To date, the use of HFO refrigerants and blowing agents has helped avoid the release of 170 million metric tons of CO2e into the atmosphere so far, equivalent to emissions from more than 35 million cars, almost all licensed cars in the UK. No other product available today provides the comprehensive range of advantages that HFO-1234yf offers, including energy efficiency, negligible climate impact, ease of conversion, safety in use and low total cost of ownership.
Recent media coverage has mistakenly linked perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and short chain perfluoroalkyl carboxylic acids (scPFCAs) to hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and HFOs, providing the perception that these fluorocarbon solutions are harmful to the environment, marine life and humans. This is inaccurate.
In fact, HFCs and HFOs, including HFO-1234yf, do not possess the same characteristics as PFAS, and are not persistent, bioaccumulative or toxic. They are environmentally preferable fluorinated substances that do not bioconcentrate in marine life, or accumulate in the food chain. Degradation of HFCs and HFOs can produce trifluoroacetic acid (TFA), which in current concentrations does not harm the environment, marine life or humans. TFA is a naturally occurring substance that is found in seawater and soil–in fact, more than 95% of TFA found in oceans is from natural sources.
A study by the United Nations Environmental Program Environmental Effects Assessment Panel concluded that, “the current and estimated concentrations of TFA and its salts in the environment that result from the degradation of HCFCs, HFCs and HFOs in the atmosphere do not present a risk to humans and the environment.”