Japanese authorities have launched a full-scale investigation into the smuggling of R-12 from China, says a Japanese news report. R-12 (freon) has been banned from import without license in most developing countries for many years, and banned from use in some jurisdictions. In Japan, production and import was banned in 1995. According to Kyodo News, it is being smuggled from China into Japan in large volumes for use in car air conditioners. Citing customs authorities and industry sources, Kyodo News said that more than 100,000 cans of smuggled CFC-12, or dichlorodifluoromethane, have been sold to Japanese car repair shops, prompting the authorities to conduct investigations. Kyodo News said that customs authorities and vehicle parts sellers believe several dozen to 1,000 cases, each containing 30 what are assumed to be "one-pound" CFC-12 bottles, have been traded in Japan since around last year. Several suspected smuggling channels in eastern, central and western Japan are being investigated. CFC-12 prices have rocketed as the substance has become harder to buy. A CFC bottle used to trade at several hundred yen, but this summer these small containers have fetched up to 5,000 yen ($65 Canadian) each in Tokyo and its vicinity, Kyodo News said, citing industry sources. In Canada, Ontario was the most recent province to ban R-12 service, sparking cries of too little, too late, as the substance had largely fallen out of use anyway due to its rising cost and the cost of air conditioning system service on aging vehicles originally equipped with R-12 systems. A 1987 international protocol allows developing countries to introduce regulations governing ozone-depleting substances some 10 years after industrialized countries due to technical and economic reasons, Kyodo News said, adding that China, which must eradicate CFC-12 by 2010, produced 50,000 tons in 1997, accounting for around a third of the world’s total output. Smuggled CFC-12 from China has been found in several locations in Japan and two used car company officials were recently prosecuted for selling freon shipped in from Thailand, the Kyodo News report said.