Consumer Concern: Air-Conditioning Refrigerant From China

August 6, 2010

You may recall the sad case of the contaminated Chinese drywall that erupted last year in Florida, rendering houses uninhabitable.

Or the previous year's scandal over melamine-adulterated milk that sickened hundreds of thousands of Chinese children.

Now a potential concern over another Chinese product has arisen, and this one's automotive.

In Korea, replacement air-conditioning refrigerant imported from China has been found to contain not only corrosive chemicals that can weaken iron, aluminum, and rubber components. Worse, it also includes highly explosive chloromethane gas.

The problem came to light when a Mercedes-Benz owner complained of a rusty all over his air-conditioning compressor less than two months after the refrigerant was replaced.

An arrest warrant has been issued for the South Korean importer who brought in 50 tons of the contaminated coolant, but police have recovered only 13 tons, meaning the rest of it is likely inside about 60,000 cars.

The Chinese refrigerant was said to have been up to 60 percent cheaper than other sources, but the brand was not named in news reports. Owners who replaced their fluid this spring are being urged to bring their cars in immediately for testing.

Thus far there have been no reports of problems with any Chinese refrigerant sold in the U.S. But none of this does much good for the reputation of Chinese manufactured products in the eyes of U.S. consumers.

Which may be why the folks planning to sell the 2011 Coda Sedan, an all-electric compact car whose body and lithium-ion cells come from China, pointed out to us that technically, the Coda is a U.S.-built car.

In any event, if we learn anything more about the contaminated AC refrigerant, we'll update the story.

[JoongAng Daily via Paul Tan]

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