Hydrochloric Acid Hazards
Hydrochloric acid is very corrosive on contact. If skin is exposed and direct contact is made with the liquid form of the acid, it can cause severe damage to the skin, digestive system and eyes.
Sores may develop in the respiratory tract with inhalation, and may cause a fluid build-up in the lungs. Patients who breathe in high concentrations may develop permanent lung injury.
Limited exposure is not likely to cause delayed or long term health effects. However, acute inhalation exposure may cause coughing, hoarseness, inflammation and ulceration of the respiratory tract, chest pain, and pulmonary edema. Acute oral exposure may corrode mucous membranes, the esophagus and stomach.
Chronic occupational exposure to hydrochloric acid has been reported to cause gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis, and photosensitization in workers. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations may cause the discoloration and erosion of teeth.
Hydrochloric Acid Exposure
Any worker exposed to toxins like hydrochloric acid should seek medical attention. Depending on the severity of exposure, a patient may need prolonged treatment. The poisoning treatment depends upon levels of the chemical exposed to, and the type of exposure—liquid contact, ingesting or inhalation.
Swallowing poison can have severe effects on different parts of the body. Extensive damage to the mouth, throat, and stomach are likely. Perforations in the esophagus and stomach may result and surgery may be necessary. Cancer of the esophagus is a potential risk in workers after ingesting hydrochloric acid. Skin or eye contact may lead to blisters, burns, and vision loss.
Symptoms from ingesting or inhaling acid can include:
- Abdominal pain
- Inflammation of throat
- Trouble breathing
- Chest pain
- Throat pain
- Bluish color to lips
- Chest tightness
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid pulse
Hydrochloric Acid Exposure Prevention
Employers have a responsibility to protect workers and warn them of the health hazards associated with toxins like hydrochloric acid. At every step of the way, hydrochloric acid should be used with care. The acid itself is corrosive, and concentrated forms which release a mist are very dangerous.
Contact with the skin, eyes, or internal organs can cause irreversible damage. Therefore, it is essential for companies to provide personal protective equipment to workers. It is recommended that workers wear the following when using hydrochloric acid of any concentration:
- Vapor respirator
- Rubber gloves
- Full suit
- Face shield
It is highly recommended to have access to an eye-flush station in case of hydrochloric acid exposure. Employers should review all chemical MSDS information during workplace training. Workers should follow the label directions and safety instructions closely.
Safety is of utmost importance when handling dangerous chemicals at the workplace. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates hydrochloric acid as a toxic substance. If any employer fails to protect their workers and an injury results, the company may be negligent and liable for the damages.