Nitric acid is widely used in the production of fertilizers, polyamides, polyurethanes, and dyes. It reacts with most metals and organic materials, from copper and iron to graphite. Like sodium hydroxide and other industrial chemicals, it may pose danger to human health.
If you’re producing plastics, fertilizers, or other goods that require nitric acid, it’s important to keep your staff safe. This chemical may cause severe toxicity when inhaled. Both short- and long-term exposure to nitric acid may put your employees’ health at risk.
Improper use of nitric acid may affect the skin, eyes, lungs, and teeth. This compound is also toxic to the cardiovascular system. If it comes in contact with the skin, it may cause severe burns.
But don’t just take our word for it. Let’s see what the research says about the hazards of nitric acid and how to protect your staff.
What Is Nitric Acid?
Nitric acid (HNO3) is a highly corrosive liquid and oxidizing agent with a pungent odor. Generally, it’s stored in brown glass bottles to prevent light or thermal decomposition. Commercial-grade varieties have a concentration of about 68% in water.
This compound isn’t flammable, but it enhances the combustion of other substances. Plus, it may produce toxic fumes and cause an explosive reaction when combined with certain chemicals.
Exposure to nitric acid can lead to severe eye damage and skin burns, among other adverse reactions. That’s why you should use the lowest concentration possible and wear protective equipment.
Beware that nitric acid can be absorbed through the skin. When inhaled, it may damage the tissues of the upper respiratory tract and cause toxicity. The fumes may cause severe eye burns.
Generally, manufacturers use this substance to produce fertilizers, plastic materials, and specialty organic compounds.
Nitric oxide may also serve as an oxidant, cleaning agent, and rocket propellant. Chemists may use it as a spot test for LSD and other alkaloids.
Health Risks Associated With Nitric Acid
Nitric acid is one of the most hazardous chemicals on the market.
Even a small amount may cause permanent damage to the skin, eyes, and internal organs. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to train your staff on how to use it safely and prevent injuries.
Note that dermal exposure to nitric acid may result in permanent scarring and blisters.
If this compound is inhaled, it may cause sore throat, nasal irritation, ataxia, and cough. In severe cases, it may lead to pulmonary edema within hours or days.
When ingested, nitric acid can damage the mucosa of the stomach, esophagus, and other internal organs. This may lead to internal bleeding, nausea, stomach pain, and vomiting.
Ocular exposure may cause sensitivity to light, burns on the cornea, and blindness.
Prolonged exposure to nitric acid increases the risks of organ damage. It may also lead to respiratory disorders, dermatitis, and even cancer.
Make sure your employees are wearing a face shield, goggles, aprons, and protective gloves when handling large doses or high concentrations of nitric acid. These preventive measures can mitigate the health risks listed above.
Protect Yourself and Your Staff
Nitric acid has a wide range of uses across various industries, but this doesn’t mean it’s safe. Exposure can occur via all routes and cause severe damage to the skin, eyes, and vital organs.
As a manager or business owner, it’s your duty to ensure safety in the workplace. Contact us today to learn more about working with hazardous materials and how to reduce the risks involved.