As refrigerant use practices are constantly evolving, particularly to establish which refrigerants are suitable for which applications, EFCTC has published a factsheet presenting objective basic accident and incident statistics for all refrigerants types, including alternative refrigerants and Fluorocarbons.
The factsheet presents the results of a non-comprehensive survey/collection of the global frequency of accidents due to refrigerant releases in the last eight years , in order to assess the safety of all refrigerants : fluorocarbons, ammonia (R-717), hydrocarbons (mainly propane R-290, propylene R-1270, butane R-600, isobutane R-600a ), and CO2 (carbon dioxide R-744).
It is widely recognized that refrigerants are selected on the basis of a number of criteria which include safety, energy efficiency and environmental impact (see Note 1).
Fluorocarbons (HFCs) have a favourable safety profile since they display low flammability and low toxicity characteristics.
Alternative refrigerants such as ammonia, hydrocarbons and CO2 are used on a much more limited basis than the fluorocarbons (HFCs) because they do not easily meet the currently applicable standards and local codes designed to provide safety in use for the general public, and to contribute to safe servicing and maintenance for engineers. It is, for example, well-known that ammonia is toxic, that hydrocarbons are extremely flammable and that CO2 is an asphyxiant that requires very high pressure to operate.
Factsheets on published refrigerant-related accidents :
Note 1) Also mentioned in the Montreal Protocol October 2013 Decision XXV 5 on Alternative refrigerants to ozone depleting substances