Air conditioning has obvious personal benefits for your comfort and health, but on a broader environmental health scale, it is contributing to the depletion of the ozone layer and the increase in global warming.
Chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, are chemical compounds found in air conditioning refrigerants that contain chlorine, fluorine and carbon atoms and they have been contributing to ozone depletion and global warming for many years. The production of CFCs is now prohibited, and government, industry, environmental and trade organizations are studying and introducing alternative fluorocarbons that are less damaging to the ozone layer.
However, CFCs are still being consumed and emitted with the use of existing air conditioners and there is no requirement for consumers to replace them or convert to more ozone-friendly alternatives. Air conditioning repair and service technicians are still using the most harmful of the CFCs because newer, less damaging chemicals are not compatible with existing systems. Hydrochlorofluorocarbons have been introduced as a transitional alternative to CFCs because they are less damaging than CFCs, but they are also set to be eliminated by the year 2020.
When buying a new air conditioning system, you may want to consult the EPA's list of suitable alternative refrigerants, which are reviewed and updated regularly on the basis of ozone depletion potential, global warming potential, toxicity, flammability, and exposure potential. You will also want to ensure that your installation contractor is licensed and knowledgeable in the use of these new chemicals.