Everything to Know About the Hazards of Sulfuric Acid

Did you know that more than 230 million tons of sulfuric acid are produced every year worldwide? This corrosive substance is needed in almost any industry and it’s even used to clean the metal that makes up the cans that store foods and liquids. 

Although sulfuric acid is very valuable in our modern world, it’s also extremely dangerous to work with. The list of sulfuric acid hazards is impressive and that’s why you need to be very careful if you ever need to handle this material.

Keep reading to learn more about sulfuric acid, it’s properties, hazards, and how to protect yourself against contamination.

What Is Sulfuric Acid and Where Is It Used?

Sulfuric acid is a colorless and odorless substance also known as oil of vitriol. It’s also known by the name of hydrogen sulfate and it’s used to manufacture a wide variety of products. For example, sulfuric acid is used to make batteries, textile and paper products, pharmaceuticals, and explosives.

Sulfuric acid is also important in processing different types of metals including steel, zinc, and copper. It’s a corrosive, poisonous, and reactive substance that can cause serious damage or injuries if it comes in contact with water.

What Are the Hazards of Working With Sulfuric Acid?

Since sulfuric acid is very reactive and corrosive, there are multiple hazards you need to take into account when working with this type of substance. Let’s take a look at them:

1. Sulfuric Acid Can Irritate the Lungs and Throat

Inhaling even small amounts of sulfuric acid is enough to cause an irritation of the respiratory tract. That’s why people who frequently work with this type of substance should wear adequate protective equipment. Sulfuric acid is also a known carcinogen, so it’s very important to avoid exposure at all costs.

In case someone inhaled a small dose of sulfuric acid, the person must be removed from the exposure immediately. CPR and rescue breathing might be performed to keep the person alive until the doctors arrive. Medical supervision is necessary to prevent the formation of pulmonary edema.

2. Sulfuric Acid Is Highly Corrosive and It Can Burn the Skin

Contact with sulfuric acid should be avoided at all costs. This type of substance can cause instant irritation of the skin and even severe burns. It can also irritate the eyes and cause temporary blindness in people who have been exposed to it for too long.

Sulfuric acid might be used in different chemistry labs in universities or high schools. However, this substance is usually highly diluted and not capable of producing a burn or adverse reaction. Still, training personnel is strongly recommended to wear adequate equipment when performing sulfuric acid experiments in front of the students.

3. Sulfuric Acid Can Explode If Exposed to Heat or Fire

Storing sulfuric acid is also a challenge, not only working with it. This type of substance is highly unstable and it can explode if exposed to high temperatures or fire. Although sulfuric acid isn’t combustible on its own, it can enhance the combustion of other substances if mishandled.

Sulfuric acid is usually stored in large containers that are clearly labeled regarding their content. These containers are deposited away from other materials and in climate-controlled rooms. Sulfuric acid can react even if it comes in contact with water, so it’s important to keep this substance away from dangers at all costs.

4. Temporary Exposure to Sulfuric Acid Can Cause Nausea and Vomiting

Workers who walk around containers with sulfuric acid or stay in their presence for a while can get contaminated too. For example, temporary exposure to this substance can cause severe headaches and nausea. Many people might vomit or have an upset stomach as a result of temporary exposure to sulfuric acid.

Repeated exposure to this chemical substance without wearing protective gear can cause damage to teeth, permanent lung damage if inhaled as well as chronic stomach issues. If workers experience one or more of these symptoms, they should seek immediate medical attention. Monitoring the healing process is paramount to ensure that no sulfuric acid injury is permanent.

How to Deliver First Aid If Someone Has Been Contaminated With Sulfuric Acid?

As mentioned earlier, removing the person from exposure to sulfuric acid is the first thing to do in case of contamination. Do not attempt to touch visible wounds and call an ambulance immediately. Treating sulfuric acid injuries is done depending on the area affected and the severity of the exposure.

For example, if the eyes were irritated by this substance, it’s strongly recommended to wash the eyes with plenty of clean water for at least 30 minutes. Sulfuric acid is a very powerful substance and that’s why you need to do it for half an hour. You should also try to lift the upper and lower lids of the affected person when washing with clean water.

If sulfuric acid landed on clothes as well as skin, make sure that you remove the contaminated pieces of clothing immediately. Be careful not to get sulfuric acid on your own hands when doing this. Treating an injured person should be done only if you wear protective gear such as gloves, a facial mask, protective goggles, and a chemical-protective-suit.

Once you have removed the contaminated clothes, proceed to wash the injured skin with plenty of soap and lukewarm water. Washing with hot water will only aggravate the wounds. Seek immediate medical attention to make sure the patient heals correctly and the sulfuric acid injuries are only temporary.

Now You Know the Hazards of Sulfuric Acid

As you can see, sulfuric acid can be both a blessing and a curse. If handled correctly, it helps industries produce pharmaceuticals, fertilizers, and other products in large quantities. If handled poorly, it can become a nightmare for the affected workers. 

If you want to protect your workers and prevent serious accidents and injuries that might threaten the lives of your personnel then make sure that you contact us today.