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Sulfuric acid is widely used in industry for a variety of purposes such as
metal cleaning and etching, production of fertilizers, petroleum produces, dyes
and explosives. Like all acids it is reactive. Simply put, this means that when
the liquid comes into contact with another material, something is going to
happen. This is where the danger lies. If sulfuric acid comes in contact with
any part of your body, a rapid destruction of tissue takes place, capable of
causing severe burns. When a burn occurs, it also gives rise to the possibility
of secondary problems such as infection. Burns are never to be considered
The strength or concentration of acids can vary. If transported in bulk
quantities, the acid is usually "full strength." If used as a cleaning
agent, it may be highly diluted. In both cases, the material is dangerous. In
its concentrated form, sulfuric acid destroys not only the outer skin, it can
also penetrate into the flesh under your skin, destroying it. This causes great
pain and, if the damage is great enough, may result in shock, collapse or other
problems which typically accompany thermal burns. Even dilute concentrations in
contact with skin can cause dermatitis, or skin irritation. Prolonged breathing
of the vapors or mists can cause respiratory disorders.
Protection: Here is something to think about. Sulfuric acid can burn through
your skin into your flesh. It can cause your clothes to disintegrate. It can
erode concrete and etch metal. Imagine what a drop or two would do to your
sensitive and unprotected eyes. When working with or around Sulfuric acid, eye and
face protection is a must. Safety glasses alone are not adequate. Wear
chemical-type goggles (these have indirect vents), and a face shield. Protective
clothing should include, at a minimum, an acid-resistant long apron and gloves.
When working with large quantities, you will need to wear an acid-resistant
"rain-suit" and high-top boots, with the pant leg extending over the
top of the boot.
First Aid - Rapid treatment is very important. You must wash the acid
off the body quickly. Get the victim to the emergency shower or to a hose as
quickly as possible. Start washing and as you do so, remove all acid-wet
clothing. Keep the water flowing. In cases where there are severe burns, shock
may set in. If this occurs, treat for shock by placing victims on their back and
keeping them warm. Call immediately for medical help. Do not apply any
ointments, oils or other treatments to the burned area.
If acid is swallowed, it burns tissues all the way down to the stomach. Do
not induce vomiting, which will cause additional burns as it comes up as well.
Never give anything to an unconscious person but, if the victim is conscious,
the acid should be immediately diluted. Provide milk, preferably mixed with egg
whites. If this isn't available, give as much water to drink as possible.
Prevent contact with sulfuric acid! Pre-determine hazards in
your operation and implement a prevention and treatment plan with professional
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