Straight to the point, without any delay, refrigerant leaks in RV air conditioner systems are not generally harmful, not to human health. That’s a point that needs to be stressed from the start. However, RV occupants are sitting inside a sealed compartment. They’re zipping down a road or parked in front of some beautiful vista, and there’s a chemical cooling system strapped around their living quarters.
That’s Not An Alarmist Statement
No, it’s there to give RV owners a sense of perspective. For example, if an R22 leak occurs in an open area, it floats out a window. Just as a by-the-way, R22 is an environmentally damaging gas. It’s a CFC, a known ozone-depleting chemical. That’s why most modern motorhomes use R134A which is a more environmentally friendly refrigerant. Another option is R410A. Different manufacturers and nations use one or the other with great success. Still, there’s that question of a sealed living area. If the evaporating leak has nowhere to go, a chemical build-up becomes inevitable.
Breathing In Dense Quantities
Respired in smaller quantities, there’s little danger, although eye irritation and headaches can occur. The real problem takes place when the vapour accumulates. Breathed in by an unaware passenger, or driver, a person’s lungs are starved of oxygen when this dangerous scenario transpires. Now, hit by the full effects of an ordinarily mild chemical attack, the concentrated levels become poisonous. Lives are at risk if this hazardous situation occurs. Above all else, get the vehicle off the road. Slow it carefully, signal a pullover maneuver, then get everyone out of the RV.
Struck By A Liquid Leak
Again, this isn’t an alarmist reaction, it’s simply a precautionary measure. Modern refrigerants are safe, generally speaking, in small volumes, so a leak will probably go unnoticed. In large concentrations, the dangers are very real. And that’s just for a vapour leak. What if the leak drips as a liquid breach? Stay away from the liquid. The chemicals could cause a mild burn. Or, if this stuff is coming straight out of a system coil, it could even cause a nasty freeze burn. The lesson here is this: vapour danger is a real bio-threat. The gas can cause major damage when it’s present in concentrated levels. For liquid threats, skin damage is possible if the chemical is extremely chilled. Otherwise, it shouldn’t cause any harm to an RV occupant’s skin or eyes.
These are the dangers that are present during the course of an RV air conditioner leak. In the long-term, environmental harm is possible, but that’s only if the chemical is an old-style R22 chemical. For life-threatening danger, a trapped cloud of vapourized refrigerant gas represents the most significant hazard.