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Dangers of a Freon R12 Gas Refrigerator

Updated July 19, 2017

Freon is the registered trademark name for a group of chloroflourcarbons that is used primarily as refrigerant agent and propellant in spray cans. The name Freon belongs to E.I. du Pont and Company. Freon is commonly known as R-12, but it also goes by CFC-12 and Dichlorodifluoromethane. Freon was invented by Thomas Midgley as an alternative to more harmful refrigerant agents, such as ammonia, methyl chloride and sulphur dioxide, which are toxic refrigerant agents.

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An Inert Gas

Aaron Vorderstrasse wrote that freon is an inert gas that has many properties in the C-F bonds and synthesis in organicflourine chemistry. The C-F bonds are difficult to break down; thus, making the compound stable.

Ozone Depletion

This very quality of inertia has been linked to the depletion of the Earth's ozone layer. The ozone maintains a uniform temperature on earth to sustain life. Freon has been banned from production in the developed world since 1994.

In the book "Chemistry, the Central Science," Theodore Brown and H. Eugene Lemay, Jr. wrote, in 1981, that CFCs is chemically inert and there is relatively no rapid chemical process to remove them from the atmosphere. The process of decomposition of CFCs can take decades.

Exposure to Flame

R-12 can pose a danger when it is exposed to flame. According to Adam Feneley, the gas may decompose into its parts (HF and HCI). The R-12 has the potential regenerating into phosgene, a chemical warfare agent.

R-12 Leak Dangers

Inhaling R-12 directly from a leak can be toxic. Adam Feneley writes that freon settles into the lungs whenever it is inhaled. It is heavier than air. Large quantities displace oxygen and can lead to asphyxiation.

In 2008, it killed 20 and injured 21 Russian submariners on board the submarine K-152 Nerpa when a freon-based fire system was activated by mistake.


Freon is the alternative to its more toxic predecessors of refrigeration technology. Servicing a freon unit requires the technician to comply with section 608 of the Clean Air Act of 1990. R-12 cannot be vented into the atmosphere. It must be recovered and recycled.

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About the Author

Edmund Gary

Edmund Gary began writing on a volunteer basis in 2001. He writes press releases and newsletter articles which center around the activities of his Knights of Columbus Council. His stories appear in "Knightlife," the official publication of the James C. Fletcher, Jr. Council No. 11422. Gary has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Bowie State University.

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