LOS ANGELES (AP) _ Fluorocarbon Co., wrongly maligned as an environmental menace, has picked a new name that doesn't sound like chlorofluorocarbons, the atmosphere-zapping gases.

The company, which makes plastic seals, gaskets, bearings and the like for everything from washing machines to planes, will be reborn Jan. 1 as Furon Co., Chairman Peter Churm said Thursday.

Churm launched a name-change contest that captured national attention last summer because people mistakenly thought his products wrecked the ozone layer, which screens cancer-causing rays.

Lynette ''Squeaky' Fromme, the Charles Manson follower who tried to kill President Ford, had Churm on a hit list. Brokers had problems selling the stock of the Laguna Niguel-based company.

More than 10,000 healthy-sounding entries poured in, including Not Chlorofluorocarbon Inc., Fiber-Fab, Seals R Us, Fluoraluralura, The Churminators Inc., Laguna Buna, Notox, Pro-Ozone Inc. and Oat Bran Co.

But a committee headed by Churm finally decided on Furon - a name of their own devising.

''What we didn't realize until we got into it were the number of names we could not use,'' Churm said in a telephone interview. ''We'd get down to three finalists, submit them to patent attorneys, and find out they were already taken.

''For example, we got about 250 entries for Fluorotech, spelled different ways. Just to see what would happen, we had it checked and found out there were already seven companies using variations on it.''

A favorite name among the Fluorocarbon brass was Fluoron, which was submitted by eight people, including one shareholder and one employee, Churm said.

''But it was pretty close to fluorine gas, which might be pretty bad, and there were already two people using Fluoron,'' he said. ''Then we decided that Furon sounded close.''

The more they considered Furon, the more they liked it.

''There's something different about it, and it sort of rolls off your tongue,'' Churm said. ''The acid test was how it sounds with the telephone operator, and it turns out it sounds good.''

Each of the eight winners will get 100 shares of Fluorocarbon - make that Furon - stock, which was trading at $13.12 1/2 per share Thursday.

Churm was asked if Furon didn't sound as though the company was, well, angry. ''Nah,'' he said. ''I'm never furious about anything.''

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The winners of the contest are: Charles Alexandre of Bristol, R.I.; Ron Birtcher, Laguna Niguel; Michael S. Cholod, Bensalem, Pa.; Marvin Felman, Beachwood, Ohio; A.B. Golaski, Philadelphia; Kelli Griesch, New York; John Temple, Chicago; and Dorothy E. Western, Lakewood, Colo.