Air Conditioner Safety & Freon Leaks

Although the air conditioning unit is an appliance that is taken for granted in many homes, the chemicals used in cooling the air are potentially very dangerous.

Headaches

Several short-term dangers exist as a result of leaking refrigerant from an air conditioning system as well as a few long-term dangers for those with preexisting health issues.

An air conditioner that springs a Freon leak during operation will begin to, slowly or quickly depending on the leak, pollute the air it emits with the refrigerant in gaseous form. Because most of the windows are closed in an area with a running air conditioner, the refrigerant in the air stays there and can eventually accumulate to levels that pose a short-term risk to the homeowner, including headaches. The headache will sometimes come paired with a musty smell or the feeling of stinging eyes. Should you suspect a headache due to a Freon leak, turn down the air conditioner immediately and open windows to ventilate the room. Get some fresh air, and contact a service repair professional for further information.

Dizziness

Another symptom of Freon leaking into the air is dizziness. Mild dizziness is more common than severe dizziness and, again, the feeling of discomfort is usually combined with the smell of the Freon in the air. Dizziness can indicate a greater concentration of refrigerant in the air than a simple headache and can also be a symptom of a larger problem for those with preexisting conditions. As with a headache, shut down the air conditioner, ventilate the room, get fresh air as soon as possible, and see a doctor to ensure the dizziness is not linked to a more serious problem.

Exposure

Installing a window air conditioner can lead to accidents such as falls, impacts or damage. If the air conditioner refrigerant coil is damaged, refrigerant can spill out onto hands, fingers, arms and even the face. When this refrigerant leaks out of the unit, it does so at high pressure and at temperatures of 20 to 50 degrees below 0. Direct contact with the refrigerant leads to exposure burns that are just as damaging as fire burns. Seek medical attention immediately if exposed to Freon.

Heart Problems

Those with heart conditions already can experience severe problems after exposure to a Freon leak. Heart palpitations, arrhythmia and other heart problems can accompany breathing in leaking refrigerant in a home. Although these symptoms may dissipate when the homeowner gets to fresh air, seeing a doctor will ensure no permanent damage has been done.

About the Author

Sean Russell has been writing since 1999 and has contributed to several magazines, including "Spin" and "Art Nouveau." When not writing, Sean helps maintain community gardens in Silver Lake and Echo Park, California. Russell also worked extensively on the restoration and rejuvenation of public parks in Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi after damage from 2004-2005 hurricanes.