Freon, a chemical often used in refrigerants and coolants, is a highly toxic gas. It is hazardous, in part, due to the gas being colorless and odorless (it can sometimes smell like freshly cut grass). This means that an individual could have no idea that they are in the presence of deadly amounts of freon.
Freon poisoning can even be fatal after 72 hours of prolonged exposure to high amounts of the chemical. It is essential to know how to detect freon, the signs of freon poisoning, what treatment options are available, and how to prevent it from happening in the first place.
Signs of a Freon Leak
Freon is used in refrigerants and coolants, which are solutions to promote cooling within air conditioners and refrigerators. At Ambient Edge, our HVAC installers and repairman routinely deal with refrigerants and coolants. We use protective gear and equipment to protect ourselves from freon.
However, it can be quite tricky for someone sitting at home to determine if there is a freon leak from their refrigerator or air conditioner. There are a handful of signs to help you determine if there are hazardous levels of freon leaking from your refrigerator or air conditioner. These tell-tale signs include:
- Your air conditioner stops cooling or does not cool as well
- The cost of your energy bill keeps increasing
- There is a hissing sound coming from your AC unit or refrigerator
- The evaporator coil is too cold and icy
- You smell something that reminds you of freshly cut grass
The above are common signs your air conditioning unit or refrigerator is broken, leaking refrigerants, and coolants that contain freon. Ambient Edge provides our customers with 24-hour emergency repair service for malfunctioning HVAC units.
Symptoms of Freon Poisoning
There are two main types of refrigerant, or freon, poisoning. Acute freon poisoning describes short-term, accidental exposure. Chronic freon poisoning consists of long-term exposure and typically affects HVAC technicians.
A leaky air conditioner or refrigerator can cause acute freon poisoning. According to WebMD, the symptoms of acute freon poisoning include:
- Sore throat and swelling in sinuses
- Difficulty breathing
- Burning sensation in your eyes, ears, nose, and mouth
- Blurry vision
- Abdominal pain
- Blood in your vomit or stool
- Skin irritation, like burns or rashes
The severity of your symptoms depends on the level and length of time you were exposed. You can even experience life-long brain damage. Seek medical attention immediately if you or a loved one is suffering from any of the above symptoms.
Treatment for Refrigerant Poisoning
The most important thing that you and your family can do is move away from the source of the leak as soon as possible. It is also recommended that you do not re-enter the household until the air conditioner or refrigerator system is fixed and the leak has stopped. You can stay at a friend’s or family member’s place or at a hotel, as continuing to be around the leaking freon will only worsen your refrigerant-poisoning condition.
Call 911, call poison control, and/or travel to a hospital as soon as you can following the onset of freon poisoning symptoms. From there, medical professionals will monitor your vital signs, such as your body temperature, pulse, and blood pressure. Your vital signs decreasing indicates that your condition is getting worse, and you may need alternative treatment and more attentive care.
Doctors will place intravenous (IV) fluids through your veins to help boost your immune system and treat the more flu-like symptoms like the fever and chills you may be experiencing. According to Healthline, a gastric lavage tube may be inserted into your stomach through your mouth to help remove any of the poison (although this is usually more for liquid freon). A tube to help you breathe or pump oxygen into your body may also be inserted to help get your oxygen levels up. Burned skin will be surgically removed and you will be prescribed pharmaceutical medications to help treat other conditions.
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Getting High on Freon
After reading all about the dangers of accidentally inhaling freon, one would assume that there is no one out there who would even dare think about purposefully inhaling freon. However, you would be mistaken.
Inhaling, or “huffing,” freon is a common method for people, including teenagers, to get high and mimic the effects of being drunk from alcohol or high on sedatives. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, during its latest year of reporting, it found that 7.8% of people getting high from inhalants (which includes freon) were in fact, teens.
Huffing freon can cause an individual to quickly experience a feeling of euphoria for a few minutes. Misusing refrigerants and coolants to get high on freon is as dangerous as accidentally inhaling it from a leak, if not more dangerous. The health complications of misusing or huffing freon include:
- Mood swings
- Nausea and vomiting
- Muscle weakness
Freon is a dangerous, potentially deadly chemical that is not meant to be inhaled by humans. Long-term effects of huffing freon include weight loss, suffocation, seizures, and brain damage. The effects of the high are not worth the long-term implications on your overall health and well-being.
How Can Ambient Edge Help Prevent Freon Poisoning?
Ambient Edge is not only committed to providing our customers with premier air condition and refrigerator systems, but we also care deeply about the safety and well-being of our consumers. No one should have to suffer the consequences of refrigerant poisoning due to a freon leak from malfunctioning HVAC units.
To best prevent dangerous freon leaks, we intend on having our NATE-certified technicians properly install HVAC units and provide our customers with 24-emergency repair service if you suspect there might be an issue with your air conditioner or refrigerator. Contact us today if you would like to learn more about refrigerant poisoning or if you suspect there is something wrong with your HVAC units that could lead to a freon leak.