Gut Rumbles

August 31, 2005

hydrofloric acid

In all my years at the chemical plant, I never handled ANYTHING else that made me as nervous as HF acid did. That is some VERY evil shit.

If you want to know something about it, just read here. We received it at the plant in 25-ton truckloads, pumped it off into a storage tank, and then watered it down to a 5% solution to use in the plant. Anybody involved with handling it wore a full "moon suit" and even then they had to be careful.

Hydrofloric acid does not play. If you get a dose of the strong stuff on you, medical science can't stop the burn. It'll go all the way to the bone and right through there, too.

I never liked dealing with that stuff. It was a lot worse than anhydrous ammonia in my book. At least you can run from anhydrous ammonia. You get strong HF on you, and you are simply fucked.

I DID it for a number of years, but I never LIKED handling that shit. It was really, really dangerous.

But I'm proud to say nobody ever got hurt on MY watch.


Is that what the aliens use for blood?

Posted by: GORDON on September 1, 2005 01:07 AM

You're right on with this. When I was a BioCh major at Caltech I was running a lab experiment which involved HF. In a fume hood, using gloves, etc. There was a hairline crack in one of the tubes connecting the apparatus, and a hot dilute HF mist sprayed out. Burned right through my sleeves, and nailed my wrist above the gloves. I soaked immediately in cold water, didn't help at all. Burned like hell. I still have scars. HF is bad stuff.

Posted by: Ole Eichhorn on September 1, 2005 01:40 AM

I gotta agree. I work in a lab, and we use the stuff for some of our tests, and it etches up the glassware something fierce.

Posted by: acegarp on September 1, 2005 03:58 AM

A thing not generally known; PTFE ('Teflon') gaskets and seals degrade in a fire, and the residue contains this shit. If your car or bike catches fire, DO NOT handle any of the plastic parts or seals afterwards, unless you really, really are into pain, or plain dont like the hands you've got.

Posted by: robert in england? no not me squire on September 1, 2005 07:21 AM

I'd heard of the stuff, but didn't know this was the kind of injury involved in contact with it. Damn!

Posted by: Mark on September 1, 2005 11:43 AM

I interned in a semiconductor fab that used that stuff as part of a cleaning process. Spooked the hell out of me when my supervisor explained exactly what would happen if I made contact with it.

Explaining what would happen if a silane line got pierced had pretty much the same effect, except the pyro in me kinda wondered what it would be like to experience (from a distance).

Posted by: Steve G. on September 1, 2005 01:46 PM

I like what that page says: HF burns are a "unique clinical entity". There's nothing else like it. I also like this bit: "Poor prognosis follows fluoride inhalation." Gee, ya think?

Here's a bit of trivia from my old chemistry textbook: more than one pioneering chemist, trying to be the first to isolate fluorine, succeeded in making HF, and died of inhaling the fumes.

Note, too, that weak concentrations are dangerous in their own special way. A weak solution soaks right through your soft tissue and doesn't begin to burn until it gets to the bone. Fuck that. A guy told me the doctor would lay you open and scrape your bones, but it doesn't say anything about that in the article, so it's probably not true.

Posted by: dipnut on September 1, 2005 01:55 PM

We used a weak concentration, I think, and the story there was that there wasn't anything the doctors could do for you if it got to your bones. Then again, they were trying to scare a dumb college kid into paying attention to what he was doing, so there could be hyperbole involved.

Posted by: Steve G. on September 1, 2005 07:37 PM

The "antidote" to HF is calcium gluconate, if HF gets to the bone its kinda tricky to get the cg in, scraping and drilling were what got mentioned in a safety class I attended at a semi house.

Posted by: Puff on September 1, 2005 11:18 PM

i am doing a skool project n i was just wonderin a. can u die from it, b. how quickly it works, n c. y wud any1 use dat shit if it is so dangerous?

Posted by: Rania on October 9, 2006 05:27 PM

I really worry about someone who can hardly
read or write messing around with HF.

Posted by: remo on May 27, 2007 06:59 PM

I worked with HF 40 years ago etching crystals for a large company I wasnt given any protective clothing i wore just a nylon overal like everyone else in the factory in the same room others worked with other chemicals and there was a lot of saldering going on none of the rooms were ventalated i had to be moved out because i got chert problems and i suffer now from a weak chest and always have a cough and breathing problems is HF the cause and can i claim

Posted by: anne on June 13, 2007 04:13 AM
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