Freon is a chemical substance with multiple applications in industrial production; its widespread use, however, raises some questions about Freon exposure and human health. Freon is a trade name covering a number of chemicals which are known as chlorofluorocarbons, indicating that they include carbon, hydrogen, chlorine, and fluorine. The most important members of the Freon group are Freon 11, Freon 12, and Freon 22. In general, Freon comes in the form of non-flammable and colorless liquids and gases, mainly used in refrigeration, the production of lubricants and fluorocarbon resins, and as a solvent in aerosol propellants. Despite its numerous applications, in certain conditions, Freon might pose some risks to your body.
The Human Body and Freon Exposure
If you are exposed to Freon on the job, you should keep in mind that the chemical is not completely harmless to your body. As such, it is important that you have regular checkups at least once a year. All medical exams should give with due consideration to the possibility that Freon might be affecting your heart. In most cases, Freon exposure is in small quantities, for example, in case of leaks from the refrigerator or the air conditioner. However, if you have known heart problems, you need to be very careful with Freon because it can cause an irregular heartbeat.
When Freon gases are in very high concentration, they can cause dizziness, asphyxia, and loss of coordination and concentration. They may cause irritation, particularly with regard to sensitive skin (skin rashes, dermatitis, etc.), but the good news is that Freon has no long-term effects on health. Freon is not a mutagen, teratogen, or carcinogen, and it does not affect the liver.
Effects of Freon Exposure on Children and Pets
Keep in mind that this chemical is between three and four times heavier than air, and it stays close to the Earth's surface. So, the closer you are to the Earth or floor, the more Freon you are likely to inhale. Children and pets (dogs, in particular, because of their higher sensitivity) are much more exposed to the effects of Freon.
If you notice that there is a Freon leak at your home, it is recommended that you open all windows and doors immediately and even use fans. Take your children and pets outside the house and seek a technician to repair the leaking appliance immediately.
Global Effects of Freon Exposure
Freon has been described as one of the most significant environmental pollutants. As it moves throughout the air, its chemical ingredients cause a depletion of the ozone layer. Depletion increases the ultraviolet radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, resulting in serious risks to human health. For this reason, the use of Freon has been phased out in modern appliances. But, at the same time, only drug trafficking exceeds the number of attempts at smuggling the chemical through the US entry points. Unlawful import of Freon is prosecuted by law, and a number of smugglers have been arrested by federal agents carrying out "sting" operations on the Freon "black market."