Is air conditioning harmful to the environment and human health?

Dr Xavier Moya, Lecturer at the University of Cambridge spoke to ELN about the impact of polluting gases used on air conditioners on the environment

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Are air conditioners one of the biggest nightmares for the environment and human health?

Scientists suggest air conditioning is actually making global warming worse.

On Sunday, it was reported that an alleged toxic coolant leak might have caused the death of two men and a woman who were found unresponsive at a five-star hotel in the Bahamas.

Dr Xavier Moya from the Department of Materials Science and Metallurgy of the University of Cambridge spoke to ELN about the polluting gases used in most air conditioners and refrigerators. ‘

He said: “The gases that we use today are hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) which are better for the ozone layer compared to gases used in the seventies and the eighties, but they are still a major contributor to global warming.

“We tend to look for better alternatives, but the issue that we have at the moment is that there is no perfect refrigerant.

“So, if you don’t want to have gases with high global warming potential, then the trade-off is that they are either toxic or flammable or both.”

A report by the United Nations Environment Programme had previously suggested implementing energy-efficient cooling appliances could avoid nearly eight years of emissions. 

That is equivalent to 460 billion tonnes of greenhouse gases. 

Dr Moya added: “We are trying to find a solid material that can do the same job as these gases without harming the environment.

“Not having a gas refrigerant will help a lot in terms of global warming.”

A few days ago, the International Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Commission outlined a range of measures that people could implement to shun Russian energy and save on their bills.

Using less air conditioning was among these recommended steps.

Watch the video to find out more.

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