By: Charles Francis Jenkins
Freon is a compressible refrigerant which unlike all previous forms, is also non-toxic. Due to several deaths that were linked to refrigerant exposure in the 1920’s, there was a large push to search for an alternative compound. The result was freon. Invented in 1928 by Kettering and Midgley under the DuPont company. Freon, or CFC’s, are organic compounds containing carbon, fluorine, chlorine, and hydrogen. These compounds are inert, or non-toxic, non-flammable, non-corrosive, and non-reactive; and thus considered safe for human interaction. This new discovery meant that not only could refrigerants be used for refrigerators, but also allow for direct human contact, thus spurring the invention of the air conditioning unit.
Of the many forms, R-12 was the most widely used up until 1994, before being replaced with other forms such as R-134a. The reason for the recall was that there has been evidence linking ozone depletion in the atmosphere with the use of Freon. The reason that this occurs is once freon is released and has traveled into the upper atmosphere, ultraviolet radiation begins to break apart the bonds. Once this occurs the free radicals of chlorine ions act as a catalyst, each ion destroying the bonds between thousands of molecules of ozone. In response, the Montreal Protocol called for the ban of such detrimental gasses and thus more inert compounds (like R-134) have been created in response.