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Increasing evidence has shown that chlorine-containing refrigerants (CFCs and to a lesser extent HCFCs) can damage the earth's protective ozone layer. Most air-conditioners and heat pumps sold around the world use a refrigerant called R-22. Emissions of R-22 (HCFCs) are considered by some experts to be a significant factor in depleting the ozone layer that protects animals and people from harmful rays from the sun. The United States signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer, which is an international agreement to reduce and eventually ban the production of most ozone depleting chemicals. In order to implement this agreement in the U.S., Congress passed the Clean Air Act of 1990. This directed the EPA to implement regulations to phase out CFCs and HCFCs. The production of CFCs for air conditioning and refrigeration in the United States was banned in 1995. CFCs are much more harmful to the environment than HCFCs, but HCFCs are next in line for elimination in 2010.
Families now have the choice to ask for an air-conditioner or heat pump that uses a more efficient and environmentally friendlier refrigerant called 410A or R-410 when buying a new system for their home.