The attached information includes some general information on the use and handling of HF. This is a material whose potential to cause serious problems must not be underestimated. Regards, Ernie Lippert Hydrofluoric acid In case of skin contact or suspected skin contact, flush the area with water for several minutes, carefully dry by blotting and cover the area with 2.5% Calcium gluconate cream (available from laboratory safety supply houses). If pain does not develop within 8 to 24 hours, the area may be cleaned. If pain does occur, seek medical attention. Users of HF must wash gloves with water before removing them and then wash their hands and other possibly exposed areas. Hydrofluoric acid (<50%) is insidious in the sense that skin contact usually does not produce any sensation such as warmth, stinging, etc. (except perhaps in the case of chapped hands or the presence of micro-cuts). After 8 to 24 hours, the area becomes quite painful and may redden or blister. Seek immediate medical attention. The treatment is injection of calcium gluconate solution at the base of the blisters or contact area. This treatment is reputed to be painful, but probably less so than the burn itself. Great care must be exercised when handling hydrofluoric acid or cleaning up any associated spill. HF can cause severe burns that may not be immediately apparent. Contact with this acid can lead to bone damage and other toxic effects including death. Any analyst responsible for handling HF must be specifically trained on appropriate handling and usage guidelines for HF prior to being assigned responsibilities involving its use. As always, read the MSDS information. Handling hydrofluoric acid requires extreme care. Your local hospital must be equipped to treat HF exposure. Work with them to establish a protocol. Make certain that they do not confuse hydrofluoric acid with hydrochloric acid. 2.5% Calcium gluconate cream must be available in the laboratory for immediate First Aid in case of skin contact. Event Several years ago, we received, by common carrier, a shipment of hydrofluoric acid in 4 500 ml plastic bottles in a well-constructed cardboard box. A chemist picked up the box and carried it to the lab. She noticed that the bottom of the box was wet with liquid that had transferred to her lab coat and jeans. She immediately went to the women's room, disrobed and washed the affected areas. She applied 2.5% Calcium gluconate cream. She was taken to the emergency room at the local hospital. I don't recall if she had calcium gluconate injections - perhaps one or two but I am not certain. Recovery was uneventful with no lasting damage. Investigation revealed that the box containing the hydrofluoric acid bottles had a puncture hole. This hole was apparently produced by a nail that pierced the cardboard box and one bottle about 1 cm above the liquid line. This apparently happened during the common carrier transport. When the chemist picked up the box, she tipped it toward herself and allowed the hydrofluoric acid to leak through the puncture hole. We surmised that this puncture occurred during transport. The common carrier was contacted. It was established that no hydrofluoric acid contamination was present in the truck and that the driver was not at risk. Summary You never know what may happen. Safety professionals and everyone else must maintain vigilance. Safety is everyone's responsibility.
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