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What Is Freon And Is It Poisonous?

A canister of freon gas sits besides two AC units used as a feature image for a blog post talking about freon poisoning.

Freon is a tasteless and mostly odorless gas containing fluorinated hydrocarbons. While freon is not the technical name for this chemical, it is the most common brand name for this refrigerant. This chemical cools appliances like refrigerators. It is part of a group of chemicals that can have harmful effects if inhaled or spilled on the skin in large amounts.


What is freon used for?

Freon is a gas that cools appliances. It continually evaporates, circulating cool air throughout the equipment’s refrigerant lines. 

It was commonly used as a refrigerant in household refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and commercial refrigeration systems. This chemical is also used to be found in aerosol spray products like deodorants, air fresheners, and even fire extinguishers. 


What is freon poisoning?

Freon poisoning, also known as refrigerant poisoning, can occur when someone inhales the chemical used to cool appliances. Inhalation is the most common route of exposure to this chemical. Inhaling these fumes can be dangerous and sometimes fatal. When deeply inhaled, it can cut off oxygen to your cells and lungs. 


What are the symptoms of freon poisoning?

While there are no tests to diagnose freon poisoning, you can watch for the symptoms of exposure. The signs and severity of poisoning depend on factors such as the type of refrigerant, the concentration of the substance, and the duration and extent of exposure. 

Symptoms of freon poisoning include: 

  • irritation of your eyes, nose, and throat
  • headache
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • cough
  • Frostbite on your skin
  • dizziness 


How is poisoning from this chemical treated?

If you believe someone has been exposed to freon, quickly move them into fresh air to prevent prolonged exposure. Next, call 911 if they are having an active emergency or the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222

Treat accordingly for specific symptoms from freon poisoning, such as respiratory or neurological effects or skin and eye irritation. The doctors may prescribe medications to alleviate respiratory symptoms or to address neurological effects. 

It’s important to note that only medical professionals should treat poisoning to tailor the care to the individual’s needs. The severity and duration of symptoms and any underlying health conditions will influence the individual’s treatment. 

The intentional use of a gas like freon to get high is commonly called “huffing.” This can be extremely dangerous, and sudden death can occur. It can also cause injury from being stored in highly pressurized containers causing an explosion. Safe usage and storage of freon is necessary.


How to prevent freon poisoning

Preventing freon poisoning involves handling refrigerants responsibly, following safety guidelines, and ensuring proper ventilation when working with or around these substances. It’s also essential to follow regulations and procedures regarding refrigerant handling, use, and disposal.  

Remember that this chemical is typically a concern for poisoning in an occupational setting or in an environment without proper ventilation. In normal circumstances, the risk of poisoning is generally low. 


Know who to call about poisoning

Awareness of the risks of poisoning is essential for safeguarding your health. It’s crucial to handle refrigerants responsibly, follow safety guidelines, and prioritize proper ventilation.

If you or someone you know has been exposed to this chemical, call the Missouri Poison Center immediately at 1-800-222-1222. Get free poison and toxicology advice from registered nurses and pharmacists. We’re open 24/7, all year long.

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