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Question DetailsAsked on 6/12/2018

Is exposure to a freon leak from a home air conditioner toxic

My Mother is 90 years old and has been Nauseous for several months and Dr's can't diagnose anything wrong
Could it be from long term exposure to Freon?
Her air conditioner has to be recharged 2 times a month sometimes more and sometimes less, due to a leak. Her service people can't find the leak and keep telling her it is repaired only to have to call them back when it stops cooling again. She lives in Florida and her life depends on keeping cool.

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1 Answer


Generally, in a normally ventilated home, no - but in concentrations in a tight building, or if leaking a lot (which hers obviously is, somewhere) then yes. But there have been cases, especially with the elderly and people with compromised immune systems or cardio-respiratory systems (which she likely qualifies as) having a number of adverse symptoms to the gas and/or the lubricating oil contained therein, which gets released with a leak. You could talk to her doctor about the significant leakage issue and likelihood it is affecting her - certainly more likely if from a mini-split or window type conditioner which might be releasing it right at her, than in the normal basement-mounted central air system where there is a lot of mixed in air likely before it gets to her. And of course, leak would have to be within the house to have a strong effect - outdoor leak would pretty much dissipate outdoors in most cases. Plus someone (her or building management) is throwing away a ton of money on constantly recharging the unit for at least several hundred $ a shot and maybe 2-3 times that in some cases, not to mention the HVAC tech is breaking the law by knowlingly recharging a unit he knows has a significant leak without fixing it first. With modern leak detection methods a significant leak (enough to affect cooling in less than 6-12 months or so) CAN be found reasonably by a trained professional who is actually trying to find it. And if it is thought to maybe be leaking from the tubing in the walls (hjence making detection tougher) if it cannot be located by dye or smoke or sonic or nitrogen/thermal detection (using infrared scanner checking walls for the massive cooling of leaking compressed nitrogen or CO2 test gas), those lines can be disconnected at the outside unit and pressure tested for leakage, which ties it down to the tubing or the indoor coil, which coil can then be disconnected and the lines/coil retested individually to determine which is the leak culprit. Can be done or typically less to around about the cost of refilling the unit once. Certainly if she (or you) are paying for this continual recharging I would be looking for a tech who can actually find the leak (if he is even trying rather than just making a bundle recharging it without trying to find the leak - "milking the freon cow" so to speak. If the building management is paying for the repair, maybe time to convince them it may be cheaper and lower liability for them to either get a better tech in who can find and repair the leak, or maybe just replace the unit with a new one and quit paying for recharging. The health issue could also carry weight, particularly if you get a statement/diagnosis from the doctor that the exposure could be causing her harm - which would sound like a ready-made suit or damage claim against the building management by her and other residents if they don't get it fixed RIGHT immediately, if they are responsible for the unit. If she has been paying for this, depending on how local you are, what power of attorney you may have for her, and how pushy you want to get and how much $ is into it, In my opinion you would have good cause to go after the vendor for a refund of at least all but the first visit charge on the basis of his work being incompetent or not accomplishing what he got paid for, and possibly for elder fraud if he is milking the recharging thing. You would have a lot of weight in demanding a full refund (assuming you have the receipts) because you could threaten him with turning over the evidence to the EPA that he has been knowlingly illegally discharging significant amounts of Freon to the atmosphere - an offense with pretty substantial daily fines for every day the unit keeps leaking with his knowledge, plus he can lose his state and federal licenses to work on such systems and to buy the gases - a MAJOR threat to his business if state Department of Environmental Protection or the EPA gets on his case. Below are a few previous questions with answers on the subject - there are also a lot of them dealing with the decision factors regarding repair or replacement on leaking/gas losing out-of-warranty and older units, in the Home

BTW - from family/friends experiences - with those symptoms, if they have not found anything with standard tests, sounds like time for detailed enzyme/waste product tests for liver, kidney, or pancreas failure or infection - because those organs have few connections to the pain nerve system so they can go bad or have problems at times without significant or continuing pain. If no-go there, then probably time for a scan series (ultrasound, CT, MRI, scope as applicable - in undiagnosed symptom cases like hers commonly progress from simpler to more complex as needed till a cause is found) to look at all internal organs including those and gall bladder and stomach, intestines for organ failure or abnormalities or for intestinal issues like ulceration or IBS or Chrohn's disease, though old age onset of those latter two would be rare unless she has had some of their symptoms for years. Pretty much any problem - infection, deeterioration, cancer, etc - in the bile system can cause regurgitation and nauseousness. Also - presumably by this time she is seeing a good endocrinologist and/or gastroenterologist doctor, not just a clinician or general physician. Of course, if only when lying down then GRD and acid reflux would be a common suspect too - as are stomach ulcers and oesophagus (esophagus to some - the food tube from mouth to stomach) issues. Sometimes, not having found anything, they end up going with a "pillcam" scan - a small ball camera that is swallowed (after a day of fasting and prep to clear the system) and passes through the system - wirelessly transmitting its digital image data to a belt-mounted recording unit as it takes it 6-10 hours to pass through the body. Course, tests which can be reasonably done given age and health conditions and comfort levels and such may also partly dictate the extent of testing - as of course $ can enter into the equation too, even though she is almost certainly on Medicare or Medicaid. Good Luck


Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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