R134a Inhalation Hazards

R-134a is a commercial refrigerant also known as tetrafluoroethane, which is most commonly found in refrigerators and automobile air conditioners. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the chemical has low acute toxicity levels and presents a low risk to humans exposed to it in small amounts. The majority of hazards associated with this inert gas arise through inhalation over time or in large amounts.

Asphyxiation Symptoms:

According to the National Refrigerants website, inhalation of R-134a reduces oxygen by 12 percent to14 percent and can cause symptoms of asphyxiation. These symptoms include blurred vision, choking, shortness of breath, a bluish tint to the skin, rapid pulse, high blood pressure, convulsions and loss of consciousness into coma or death. Symptoms worsen as exposure to the chemical increases. These effects develop overtime as R-134a has a low occurrence of acute reactions.

Loss of Coordination and Irritation of Airway:

A loss of coordination can occur with inhalation of R-134a because of lack of oxygen reaching the brain. The inhalation of the chemical also can cause irritation and frostbite in airways, nasal passages and surrounding skin areas. If the solution is in a mist form, it can settle in the lungs or gastrointestinal tract and cause gas buildup. This may not be immediately life threatening, though it causes a good deal of discomfort.


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