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Air Quality


Reporting a refrigerant leak to EPA

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control does not have regulations associated with refrigerant leaks. However, you can file a report easily and anonymously by visiting EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance website.

If you have any additional questions, please contact the subject area experts at EPA's Ozone Protection Hotline at 1-800-296-1996 (toll-free).

Basic information on ozone layer protection is also available through EPA.

Why is it regulated?

Freon, also known as R-12 or CFC-12, is a refrigerant used in automobile air conditioners. Commonly released into the air when air conditioners are serviced, freon rises in the stratosphere where it destroys ozone molecules. Ozone in the upper atmosphere is able to absorb lethal levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun before those rays can reach the earthís surface. Overexposure to UV radiation has been determined to cause an increase in skin cancer, cataracts and suppression of the human immune system.

How must it be managed?

In accord with the federal Clean Air Act requirements, the production of freon in the United States has been phased out. However, the use of freon is still permitted, as long as supplies are available. Servicing of air conditioners must be done using approved equipment which meets Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard 1963 and the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) standard J1991. Shops must certify to the U.S Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that they own approved equipment using the form in Appendix G.

Technician Certification. Technicians who repair or service air conditioners must be certified by an EPA-approved organization. EPA has issued regulations under Section 608 of the Clean Air Act to minimize the emission of refrigerants by maximizing the recovery and recycling of such substances during the service, repair, or disposal of refrigeration and air-conditioning equipment (i.e., appliances).

Freon must be recycled by being either:

  • recovered, treated and returned to the vehicle for reuse OR
  • recovered and stored in a holding tank until such time that it is sent to an off-site reclamation facility.

Best Management Practices

  • Retrofit air conditioner to use R-134a instead of R-12 (freon). Lubricants, seals, fittings, etc. used with R-12 are not compatible with systems retrofitted for 134a. When in doubt as to proper retrofitting procedures always consult the air conditioner manufacturer. Motor vehicles, model year 1995 or newer, use R-134a. Note: Although R-134a is not an ozone depleter, it is a "greenhouse gas" and cannot be vented to the air. It must also be recovered using specialized equipment dedicated to R-134a.
  • Evacuate and recover refrigerant before servicing to avoid releases.
  • Visibly inspect hoses, connections and condenser for leaks. Consider purchase of an electronic sniffer to detect leaks. Avoid using leak detecting products containing R-12.
  • Encourage customers to repair leaking systems.
  • Donít mix R-12 and R-134a since contaminated refrigerant must be sent off-site for reclamation.
  • Purchase refrigerant in 15 lb. containers or greater.


For more information please contact the Bureau of Air Quality at (803) 898-4123 or by email.