Hydrogen fluoride, also known as hydrofluoric acid or HF, is a colourless, corrosive gas made up of a hydrogen atom and a fluorine atom. It is produced by reacting a naturally occurring mineral, fluorspar, with sulphuric acid.
Where Is It Found?
Hydrogen fluoride is a raw material that is commonly used in the manufacture of commercial and industrial products, including detergents, electronics, refrigerants, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, agrochemicals, gasoline, plastics, stainless steel kitchen products, aluminium, and incandescent light bulbs.
Due to its strong corrosive qualities, a diluted form of hydrofluoric acid is used in some commercial automotive cleaners, and rust and stain removers. In laboratories and industrial environments, it can be used for etching glass and enamel, removing rust, cleaning brass and crystal, and in extraction and purification processes. Hydrogen fluoride is also used in chemical and petroleum refineries, as well as power plants.
What Are The Dangers?
When using commercially available products that contain hydrofluoric acid, extreme care should be taken. Since hydrogen fluoride moves easily and quickly through the skin and into the tissues of the body, skin contact, or inhalation of this super-toxic gas can cause moderate to severe health effects. However, symptoms depend on exposure levels, lengths, and routes.
Hydrogen fluoride, even at low levels, can irritate the eyes, nose, and respiratory tract. Breathing in the gas at high levels can cause severe electrolyte issues and death from an irregular heartbeat or from fluid buildup in the lungs. Small splashes on the skin can be fatal. Skin contact may cause severe pain and result in a rash or deep, slow-healing burns.
Long-term health effects of acute exposure may include chronic lung disease, skin scarring, permanent visual defects, narrowing of the oesophagus, and bone loss.”