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  1. #1

    Dangers of refrigerants?

    I figured I'd ask this: I'm sure there are other threads about this, but I thought I'd start one of my own. Which is actually more dangerous to get on you, liquid or vapor refrigerant? I've read liquid is worse but any opinions? What has happened when you've gotten it on you? Has anyone out there actually lost body parts due to severe frostbite? I read somewhere that a guy actually had his leg blown off by an exploding compressor or something at a supermarket freezer that he was working on. Is that seriously possible? Just want to know everything that could happen to me once I get into this stuff. Thanks

  2. #2
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    At lot of refrigerants in liquid state are well below freezing at atmospheric pressure so liquid definitely will frostbite you bad, I guess in large enough quantities could frost off a limb but I've never heard of it happening. Vapor or liquid at high pressures could take off a limb or kill you if caught in the cross fire or hit by shrapnel of the exploding cylinder. Also arc flash is something to worry about when electricity, specifically higher voltages, is involved such as a compressor terminal or even a fuse box/disconnect or contractor. If shorted can throw a fire ball and shrapnel that can burn you alive or throw you into something with such force it kills you on impact and then burns you. Everything we do is dangerous, you have to be cautious, careful and respectful with anything even something as simple as climbing a ladder could end your career or life if you're not careful.
    Heating/Cooling Services Inc.
    www.andersonhvacservice.com

  3. #3
    Man, sounds like fun. I'm not a big risk taker, but I guess with just about any profession there are risks and dangers associated with it. I'll just have to learn to be very careful, and hope for the best. Electricity is one thing I'm really not too fond of though. At least I wasn't one of about 50 or 60 students in one of my physics classes who actually admitted to sticking something in a wall outlet as a little kid. Keep the stories and advice coming, and thanks for all your help so far

  4. #4
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    Electricity and falls will kill you before anything else in this business will. Electricity is invisible. Everything else we work with we can see, hear, feel, or smell the danger that might be involved. I can't stress enough about working safe. I was injured a year and a half ago and I can no longer work in the field. Everybody here has gotten some kind of "freezer burn" at some point in their career. There are pics somewhere on this site of someone's hands blistered up like balloons. Oxygen depletion from using co2 or torches in a confined space is another thing that can happen. Burning your lung tissue from inhaling phosgene gas is always fun. Work smart and work safe.
    Officially, Down for the count

    YOU HAVE TO GET OFF YOUR ASS TO GET ON YOUR FEET

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  5. #5
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    I've never heard of anything more than some blisters as far as the frost bite goes.

    Your safety in this field is much like anything else that is semi-dangerous. You minimize risk by working slow and thinking about what you're doing and being properly trained how to do it.

    I was lucky enough to work for a contractor that did weekly safety meetings and much more.

  6. #6
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    The most dangerous part of working in HVAC is driving to the work site. Even more so in bad weather.

  7. #7
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    Richmond, VA
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    Liquid refrigerant is no joke. It punished me by soaking into my gloves, which feels like putting your fingers in boiling oil; it'll just linger in the fabric for the longest time. Nothing permanent as a result, but I can see it's highly plausible that if you don't know what you're doing, you could seriously injure yourself if care isn't taken.

    That being said, the only danger associated with refrigerant is burns and displacing the oxygen around you. As long as you don't burn refrigerant and create phosgene gas, they're all non-toxic, except for ammonia.

  8. #8
    I have heard that burning refrigerants will create phosgene gas, but what exactly will this gas do to you if you inhale it? I know it's toxic, but what are the symptoms you experience, and are there any long term effects from being exposed to it?

  9. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by TriPac Dude View Post
    I have heard that burning refrigerants will create phosgene gas, but what exactly will this gas do to you if you inhale it? I know it's toxic, but what are the symptoms you experience, and are there any long term effects from being exposed to it?
    Asphyxiation, wait til you get a whiff of it it's similar to mustard gas.
    Heating/Cooling Services Inc.
    www.andersonhvacservice.com

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TriPac Dude View Post
    I have heard that burning refrigerants will create phosgene gas, but what exactly will this gas do to you if you inhale it? I know it's toxic, but what are the symptoms you experience, and are there any long term effects from being exposed to it?

    Phosgene is actually a rare phenomenon. It can kill you.

    What most people call phosgene are actually aldehydes and other nasty gasses formed by the breakdown of refrigerants under heat. They aren't exactly lethal that I know of, but they're nasty.

    Your nose, eyes and mouth will burn. Inhale them deeply enough and so will your lungs. The effects can last from a few minutes in the case of a light exposure to a couple of days in the case of a large, heavy exposure. You will NOT want to repeat the experience unless you enjoy difficulty breathing and the feeling of "congestion" in your chest which is probably the best way I can describe the after-effects.
    Last edited by jpsmith1cm; 01-25-2014 at 11:33 PM. Reason: edit typo

  11. #11
    Well, I've certainly never inhaled mustard gas, but I've read about it, and it sounds decidedly unpleasant. Anybody ever heard stories of these goofy teenagers going around neighborhoods and opening the refrigerant lines of someone's outside AC unit and inhaling the refrigerant gas just to get high? I guess a lot of them have died doing that. Is refrigerant gas chemically toxic to inhale, or is the damage done mostly by the extreme coldness of it going into their respiratory system? Not, of course, that I'm planning on doing that when I go to work on somebody's AC unit.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by jpsmith1cm View Post
    Phosgene is actually a rare phenomenon. It can kill you.

    What most people call phosgene are actually aldehydes and other nasty gasses formed by the breakdown of refrigerants under heat. They aren't exactly lethal that I know of, but they're nasty.

    Your nose, eyes and mouth will burn. Inhale them deeply enough and so will your lungs. The effects can last from a few minutes in the case of a light exposure to a couple of days in the case of a large, heavy exposure. You will NOT want to repeat the experience unless you enjoy difficulty breathing and the feeling of "congestion" in your chest which is probably the best way I can describe the after-effects.


    I had the "heavy exposure" once where I coughed for a couple days. Every time I coughed, you could see what looked like smoke coming out.

    It really really sucks.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by TriPac Dude View Post
    Well, I've certainly never inhaled mustard gas, but I've read about it, and it sounds decidedly unpleasant. Anybody ever heard stories of these goofy teenagers going around neighborhoods and opening the refrigerant lines of someone's outside AC unit and inhaling the refrigerant gas just to get high? I guess a lot of them have died doing that. Is refrigerant gas chemically toxic to inhale, or is the damage done mostly by the extreme coldness of it going into their respiratory system? Not, of course, that I'm planning on doing that when I go to work on somebody's AC unit.
    It just displaces the oxygen. If you got a good enough whiff I guess it could do the trick.

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