23. Hydrofluoric Acid and Calcium Gluconate Gel

All Laboratories at the University of Alberta that use Hydrofluoric acid must have a written protocol that will describe the following:

  • The Dangers of Hydrofluoric Acid (HF)
  • Transport and Storage of HF Acid
  • Personal Protective Equipment Required when working with HF
  • First Aid Procedures for HF Exposure
  • HF Spills Response
  • Procedures for using HF in that particular lab

HF is used in many EAS labs because Hydrofluoric Acid dissolves silicates. However, no one should work with Hydrofluoric Acid until they have been properly trained on how to safely handle this acid. HF has a unique health hazard unlike other corrosives and you must be aware of it. HF differs from other strong acids in that it not only causes surface burns but will rapidly penetrates the skin, even in dilute solution, and causes destruction of underlying tissue and bone by the extraction of Calcium.

ALWAYS WEAR ALL SAFETY EQUIPMENT PROVIDED

 WHEN WORKING WITH HF BOTH SAFETY GLASSES AND A FACESHIELD ARE RECOMMENDED.

You do not want to get this acid in your eyes.

You MUST READ the MSDS Sheet BEFORE you work with HF Acid.

Hydrofluoric Acid (HF) is a highly corrosive and toxic acid, even in a dilute form. All EAS Labs which use HF are required to have a current tube of HF Antidote Gel, ie. Calcium Gluconate Gel, on hand.

HF can severely damage the skin and eyes causing deep burns which are extremely painful. Even the vapor from anhydrous HF or its concentrated solutions can cause damage to skin, eyes and the respiratory system. Because HF can cause destruction of underlying tissue and bone, washing the burn with water is not sufficient. A neutralizing agent which will also penetrate the skin is required, i.e. Calcium Gluconate Gel. The effects of HF, i.e. destruction of tissue and onset of pain, particularly from exposure to dilute solutions, may not be felt for up to 24 hours. Therefore, if you have had an HF exposure of any concentration you must treat the event as a serious chemical exposure and seek medical attention.

Hydrofluoric acid burns can cause extreme pain. The pain is believed to occur from nerve ending irritation due to increased levels of potassium ions that move in to compensate for the reduced levels of calcium ions which have been bound by the fluoride. Relief of pain is an excellent indication of the success of treatment, therefore local anesthetics should be avoided.

HOW TO TREAT HYDROFLUORIC ACID BURNS:

The treatment of an HF burn is different than with other corrosives. Most acid splash to the body require the injured person to rinse with cold water for at least 15 minutes. However for an HF burn the most effective first aid is to flush the affected area with water for ONE minute and then massage HF Antidote Gel into the wound until there is a cessation of pain or, if there is no pain yet, ensure that the skin is well impregnated with the Calcium Gluconate gel. (Place a glove on the hand that you use to apply the Calcium Gluconate – you do not need to contaminate another body part with this acid.) The HF Antidote Gel works because the Calcium, in the Calcium Gluconate gel, combines with the Fluoride ions to form insoluble Calcium Fluoride, thus rendering the Fluoride inactive and preventing further extraction of Calcium from the body tissues and bones. You must seek medical attention after you have treated the area with the Calcium Gluconate gel. Go to either the University of Alberta Hospital OR to the Royal Alex Hospital in Edmonton; both hospitals have an HF treatment protocol. It is imperative that any person who has been contaminated by HF should seek prompt medical advice even when the treatment by HF Antidote Gel has been applied. A Chemical Spill/Incident Report and a WCB Report must be filled out for this type of spill/injury. Be sure to take the HF Protocol binder with you to the hospital. The binder contains complete medical treatment information which will then be immediately available to hospital staff.

EYE INJURIES:

HF contact with the eye requires urgent medical attention. HF Antidote Gel is NOT for use in the eye. Remove contact lenses and irrigate the eyes for at least 30 minutes with copious quantities of water. Keep the eyelids apart and away from eyeballs during irrigation. Get competent medical attention immediately, preferably an eye specialist. If possible, have someone phone ahead to the hospital to ensure that an appropriate antidote solution is available on arrival. (University of Alberta Hospital, Phone 780-492-8822). Place ice pack on eyes until reaching emergency room.

YOU MUST REACT QUICKLY IF YOU HAVE SPLASHED HF ONTO YOURSELF!