In 1987, many countries signed the Montreal Protocol. This was an international agreement that attempted to ban and/or limit the production of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). CFCs are industrial compounds that damage the ozone layer. They were found in most aerosol sprays and in many of the major asthma inhalers. CFC production was halted in developed, industrialised countries like the U.S. by the year 2000, except for limited medical uses. Additional limits and eventual bans on developed and also developing countries like China were due to go into effect beginning in 1999 with all production of CFCs due to end by 2010.
The U.S., as a signatory to the Montreal Protocol, began phasing out CFC asthma inhalers in 2010. Up until 2010, the production of CFC-based asthma inhalers had been allowed due to their medical necessity. Production stopped on four of the seven major inhalers by December 2010. Production on the three remaining CFC inhalers must be stopped between June 2011 and December 2013.
CFC Production Extensions In Other Countries
Many countries that originally signed the Montreal Protocol have requested extensions on stopping both production and usage of CFC-based asthma inhalers. Pakistan is a typical example of a less developed country that has had a difficult time stopping production due to the high cost both of importing non-CFC inhalers and converting existing manufacturing plants to non-CFC production. Pakistan has asked for extensions beyond their December 2009 deadline.
The European Union and its member countries was a signatory to the Montreal Protocol and has stopped production of CFC-based inhalers for consumption in member countries. However, because the Montreal Protocol has allowed for the limited continued use of CFC-based inhalers in less developed countries, some manufacturing sites in Europe have still produced these inhalers to ship to other countries. One example of this practice is in Nepal, where European-produced inhalers have been sent for use there. These inhalers are often illegally shipped on to India.
Black Market CFC Inhalers
Because many developing countries are still allowed both the use of CFC inhalers and production of them, there is a large black market in importing CFC inhalers both to countries where CFC inhalers can be sold and in producing these inhalers in countries where it is allowed and then exporting them to countries that have banned them. Both China and Russia have been seen as the major perpetrators of these black market practices although the flow of inhalers from Russia, which had an earlier deadline for discontinuing production, has slowed. These black market products often find their way to Europe and the U.S.