CFC inhalers to be phased out by 2003

The European Commission has adopted a strategy, as required under the Montreal Protocol, for phasing out the use of CFCs in metered dose inhalers (MDIs). CFCs are still available for use in MDIs under the Protocol's "essential uses" exemption. Worldwide, 500 million MDIs are used each year, of which 200 million are made in Europe, using 6,635 tonnes of CFCs.

The alternatives to CFCs in MDIs are HFCs 134a and 227. Both are powerful greenhouse gases, but are less potent than the CFCs they replace. Nevertheless, the Commission notes that there "remains scope to continue research into products which have even less environmental impact."

The strategy, set out in a Communication, 1 calls on Member States to refuse marketing approval for new MDIs containing CFCs, and to speed approval for those that are CFC-free. It expects the process to be completed by 2003.

"Essential use" status will be withdrawn by the Commission from MDIs containing CFCs on a category by category basis, according to the type of disease being treated or the way the active substance operates. CFC-free products will be differentiated from those containing CFCs by changing the brand name or adding a logo or "flash" to the packaging.

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