I saw on the news that saccharin has been found to be such a negligible carcinogen that it has been removed from the FDA’s list of hazardous substances - and this on the heels of the finding that coffee is actually GOOD FOR YOU!

I believe that it was back in the ’50s that the manufacturing of some soft drinks stopped because they contained the hazardous substance saccharin, and I’ve always been told that my coffee drinking would lead to my early demise. So, where did these “scientific myths” originate? Did they come from some flawed testing, or because some “expert” just said it was so?

I remember an old Consumer Reports article on pain relievers that said, “adding caffeine to aspirin shows no benefit to taking aspirin by itself,” but a few months later it was proven that adding caffeine provides a significant benefit (I knew that).

Then there were the warnings against using palm oils because they were “high in harmful cholesterols,” which was proven untrue.

I could go on and on, and I’m sure that you could, too. But that isn’t the point of this article.

Back in the ’70s I taught classes for a Carrier distributor and for a while was on contract at the Carrier plant in Collierville, TN. At the time, one of the subjects in their Advance Refrigeration course covered “Cleanup After a Compressor Burnout.” I mention this because one of the points of this very old program was that it really isn’t necessary to change the refrigerant after a compressor burnout in a large system, for “the contaminants aren’t in the refrigerant, they’re in the oil.”

Then came the phaseouts of CFC and HCFC refrigerants, and the laws that the EPA passed, which set such extremely high standards for recycled refrigerants that they virtually eliminated the use of recycling machines by HVACR service companies. This has contributed greatly to the lack of availability of older refrigerants.

Now my question is: What happened to the teaching that “the contaminants aren’t in the refrigerant, they’re in the oil”? Was Carrier’s Training Department wrong all those years? And if so, where are the studies to prove this?

It’s a fact that all internal AC/R contaminants, except air and other refrigerants, end up in the compressor oil. With good service practices, there will be no air or other refrigerants. So a simple recovery of the refrigerant, followed by returning it to the system, should be fine - provided that oversized filter-driers have been installed to ensure clean oil.

Unfortunately, however, all such decisions have been left in the hands of “EPA experts,” though someday they will probably be proven wrong. In the meantime, we’re all affected by their wrong decisions.

The sad part is that these myths don’t just go away - they continue as “old wives tales” through the years.

As an example, immediately after the news report about saccharin not being a serious carcinogen, my wife said to me, “You see? They’ve proven that saccharin causes cancer!” Also, I’m still receiving warnings about my coffee drinking. And though the tap water in many cities has been proven purer, I’m still reminded that I should drink bottled water. It never ends!

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