Symptoms of a Freon Leak

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Refrigeration appliances often contain Freon.
Refrigeration appliances often contain Freon. (Image: refrigerating equipment image by Alexey Kuznetsov from Fotolia.com)

Whether as a gaseous or liquid coolant, Freon aids in refrigeration, air conditioning and maintaining aerosol contents under pressure. Not only can this toxic chemical expose the earth to excessive ultraviolet rays, but the substance can also sicken those who inhale it in an enclosed atmosphere. Detecting the signs and symptoms of a Freon leak will protect lives, ground water and air quality.

Olfactory Assault

Freon lacks an observable color, but does have a distinct smell that might assault the olfactory senses of those nearby. A Freon leak, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, often smells like newly mown grass. Alternately, Freon can smell sweet, like chloroform.

Heart Palpitations

Cardiac arrhythmia can signify the presence of leaking Freon. A person without a history of irregular heartbeats might suddenly detect heart palpitations and faulty blood circulation upon exposure to a Freon leak. The blood circulation problems may also lead to numbness in the limbs.

A Freon leak in a heated environment also exacerbates heart irregularities. According to a Colorado State University report, warm Freon releases lethal phosgene gas that may create a green-colored cloud. Freon inhaled with this gas can incite tightness in the chest, along with palpitations.

Breathing Difficulty

Other symptoms a Freon leak include difficulty breathing and difficulty staying alert, due to thick vapors created by the chemical. These vapors decrease atmospheric oxygen and create a stifling environment, according to a report by American University. A Freon leak may consume so much oxygen that a person falls unconscious and needs artificial respiration or connection to an oxygen tank. Relocation to an outdoor space where fresh air abounds can sometimes aid recovery.

Membrane Irritation

Leaking Freon irritates sensitive membranes in the nose, mouth cavity and throat, often causing a burning sensation inside the cheeks, nostrils and trachea. Inhaled Freon can also irritate the lungs. A sense of swelling or inflammation in any of these areas can signify exposure to a Freon leak, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. Membranes in the eyes can also burn as a result of Freon exposure, but rinsing the eyes after leaving the contaminated environment usually resolves this symptom.

General Illness

A Freon leak can cause nausea, headaches, bouts of regurgitation and general disorientation. Confused thinking and trouble walking or coordinating movements also may result. Severity of illness depends on the amount of Freon released and the length of time exposed. A fire department can provide solutions and guidance for anyone detecting a Freon leak and suffering from its effects.

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