LOS ANGELES (AP) _ The company calls itself Fluorocarbon Co., but the way investors were reacting you'd think it was called something else: a pariah.

Since the mid-1950s, the company has been making expensive custom seals, gaskets, bearings and the like from Teflon and related plastics - materials known as fluorocarbons.

''They are as safe as peanut butter,'' said Peter Churm, Fluorocarbon's chairman.

But try telling that to investors who've heard about chlorofluorocarbons, the compounds used in aerosols and refrigerants that are believed to eat holes in Earth's protective ozone layer.

Said Churm: ''This has been developing over the last few years, and finally in the last six months we were getting calls from brokers who would say, 'We're not going to put any of our clients in your stock because it takes too long to explain that you're not the bad guys.'''

Churm decided to ditch the name and let the public pick the new one.

Contest entries are due by Aug. 31. The winner should be announced by the end of September. The prize is 100 shares of Fluorocarbon stock, which has been trading at about $16 a share.

Churm said more than 1,600 letters have arrived at the company's headquarters in Laguna Niguel containing 6,000 suggested names.

''One guy said instead of Fluorocarbon, make it Flour Garden,'' Churm said. ''One letter came from a lady who said, ''If you really want to clear the air, name it Not Cloroflourocarbon Inc.'''

Another wag wrote, ''If you're so concerned about health and the environment why don't you name it the Oat Bran Co.''

Churm said the new name will probably sound a lot like the old, an idea endorsed by Robert Berglass, the chairman of Dep Corp. in Compton.

Sales of Dep's Ayds weight-reduction candy had fallen more than 50 percent because of publicity about the affliction AIDS before the company repackaged the product this year and renamed it Diet Ayds.

''We wanted to soften it without completely changing it and losing the name identification,'' Berglass said.

He said sales are moving back up.

Fluorocarbon also should revise instead of abandon its name, he said.

''Change it to Fluorotef, because their biggest product is Teflon, isn't it?'' Berglass suggested.

''That's a good name,'' replied Churm. ''But he's too late. Somebody else already came up with it.''