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What is Freon?

Freon™ was once a common refrigerant for household appliances.
Freon™ was once used as an aerosol propellant.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 16 July 2014
  • Copyright Protected:
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Freon™ is a family of products developed by the DuPont company in 1928. Through the 1980s, Freon™ was used in a wide variety of applications, until growing evidence suggested that it was contributing to damage in the ozone layer which protects the Earth. In response, alternatives to the products were developed, and several governments have launched initiatives to help people replace products which contain Freon™ so that the products can be safely sequestered.

These products were originally developed for use in refrigeration. They are part of a family of chemicals known as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Prior to the production of Freon™, a variety of toxic substances including ammonia were used in refrigeration, causing illness when leaks occurred. Freon™ was viewed as a safe refrigerant because it is nontoxic, noncorrosive, nonflammable, and nonreactive. In the 1930s, use of the chemical in refrigeration systems began to rise dramatically, with manufacturers viewing the products as safer and easier to work with.

In addition to being used as a refrigerant in refrigerators and freezers, Freon™ was also used in air conditioning systems, firefighting systems, and as an aerosol propellant. The widespread production and use of Freon™ led to an accumulation of the chemical in the environment. Eventually, people began to realize that the ozone layer above the Earth was starting to degrade, and CFCs were suspected of being involved, leading to calls to ban the use and additional production of these chemicals.

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DuPont and other chemical companies have developed alternatives to Freon™ which are safe for use as refrigerants. However, a high volume of the chemical is still present, and still causing damage to the ozone layer. Old appliances often contain Freon™, which can make them costly to repair if they start to break down. Disposing of old appliances must also be done with care to reduce the risk of allowing the coolant to leak out.

People who are not sure about whether their cooling systems contain Freon™ or not can contact a refrigeration professional to ask to have the system evaluated. If the system does contain Freon™, there may be a variety of ways for dealing with the issue, ranging from using the system until it fails and then replacing it to retrofitting the system so that it can use an alternative to Freon™ as a coolant.

Freon™ leaks are not an immediate risk to human health, except in cases where the coolant leaks out in large quantities. At room temperature, it often reaches a gaseous state, and inhaling the gas can lead to suffocation, because it displaces the oxygen in the air. An HVAC specialist can clean up the leak and address the underlying cause so that it does not occur again.

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Discuss this Article

anon348750
Post 18

There was just an explosion in Maryland caused from an open can of freon being left inside of a truck. The truck exploded. The man escaped but was transported to the hospital. Scary stuff.

anon336648
Post 17

No Dehumidifiers contain Freon or refrigerant.

anon293862
Post 15

There is a liquid leaking from the back of the refrigerator that dries into a white powder on the floor. What is it? Do I need a new fridge? There is no odor and the food remains cold. Thanks for your help.

malik23
Post 14

@ scrow3: Hey, you should have a technician check that out. Then call the Consumer Protection Agency like the other guy did!

malik23
Post 13

@anon271068: Sounds like you have a major situation on your hands. You should get that checked out as soon as possible.

malik23
Post 12

Wow, This article makes it sound like Freon had an effect on the ozone really quickly. According to wikipedia, it took almost fifty years for Freon to be banned. Now, this stuff is scary in its gaseous state!

anon271068
Post 9

I have a 2009 Frigidaire freezer upright and it contaminates the food with a nasty chemical odor that will make you sick if you dare to eat it. The smell makes people shriek when they smell the food.

I intend to pursue the matter with the Consumer Protection Agency after I have a technician check it out and say he has no clue other than the materials used in construction of the unit (it still stays cold at 0 degrees, so likely it is not a coolant leak).

anon171494
Post 7

What other products use freon? I have been told it is also found in dehumidifiers. Is that true?

scrow3
Post 6

is no one going to answer with out being paid. but i got a hole in the freezer part of my mini refrigerator. how worried should i be?

anon75968
Post 5

How does freon work in a fridge?

anon71627
Post 4

Is freon is emitted into the atmosphere when we use a refrigerator or air conditioner?

anon50850
Post 3

@jrjones get that fridge to a fixman or something. Seriously, don't drink that stuff.

anon44044
Post 2

What causes Freon leaks in a refrigerator?

Marty

jrjones
Post 1

We have a strong chemical smell coming from our refrigerator. It started in the freezer and has migrated into the refrigerator part too although it is not as strong in the fridge part. It's gotten strong enough to fill the kitchen when you open the freezer door. It also ruins the taste of the ice and the ice water. After you drink some, that taste stays with you a little while. Do you think this is a dangerous situation? What might it be? What can I do about it?

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