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Risks of Hydrochloric Acid

Updated April 17, 2017

Hydrochloric acid is a colourless to light yellow liquid produced by dissolving hydrogen chloride in water. The acid has many uses, including the production of fertilisers and dyes. It is used in the textile, rubber and photographic industries. The acid is extremely corrosive and must be handled with care in order to avoid injury.

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Acute Effects

Hydrochloric acid exposure can cause injury to the eyes, skin and mucous membranes. Vapours may cause eye irritation and direct exposure to the eyes can result in permanent vision damage. Inhaling the substance can result in coughing, hoarseness, inflammation and respiratory tract injury. In extreme cases, ingesting hydrochloric acid can cause pulmonary oedema, circulatory failure and death. Swallowing the substance can also cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Skin exposed to the acid can be burnt and permanently scarred.

Chronic Effects

Long-term exposure to hydrochloric acid may result in chronic ailments. Humans exposed to the substance on a regular basis can develop gastritis, bronchitis, skin problems and sensitivity to light . Continuous exposure to even low doses of hydrochloric acid may cause teeth to erode and discolour.

First Aid

If hydrochloric acid is inhaled the individual should be exposed to fresh air. If the individual is not breathing, CPR should be started. Medical attention is immediately required. If a person swallows hydrochloric acid, he requires large amounts of water or milk. It is important not to induce vomiting and to seek medical attention. When skin is exposed to the substance, it should be immediately rinsed with water for at least 15 minutes. Medical attention is advised. All exposed clothing and shoes should be washed thoroughly before reuse. In the case of eye exposure to the acid, the eyes should be rinsed immediately with water for at least 15 minutes. The eyelids should be lifted in order to rinse the entire eye. Seek medical attention immediately.

Handling and Storage

Hydrochloric acid should be kept away from direct sunlight, heat and water. The substance should be safely stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area that has a good drainage system. Never add water to the acid as this can cause extreme boiling and splashing.

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About the Author

Caroline Romero began writing professionally in 1991 for the Niagara College Newspaper, "Niagara News." Her work has been published in Brock University's "Surgite" magazine. She holds a Journalism-Print diploma from Niagara College, Welland and is working on a Bachelor of History degree at Brock University.

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