Exposure to hydrofluoric acid (HF) can produce harmful health effects that may not be immediately apparent. Both the liquid and vapor forms are extremely hazardous. HF causes severe, penetrating burns. HF may be fatal if swallowed or inhaled. Burns can occur to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. HF causes bone damage. HF will react with certain metals and generate flammable and potentially explosive hydrogen gas. Those working with HF must have a detailed first aid procedure planned before work begins. Laboratories using HF should have calcium gluconate gel available.
Skin Contact: Remove the victim from the contaminated area and immediately wash the area with copious amounts of water for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, treat the area with 2.5% calcium gluconate gel. Continue to treat the burn while seeking medical attention. Seek medical attention immediately for all burns regardless of how minor they may appear initially.
Eye Contact: Rinse the eyes with copious amounts of water, keeping the eyelids apart and away from eyeballs during irrigation, for a minimum of 5 minutes and seek medical attention. Do not apply calcium gluconate gel to the eyes.
Inhalation: Get medical help immediately. If patient is unconscious, give artificial respiration or use inhalator. Keep patient warm and resting, and send to hospital after first aid is complete.
Ingestion: If swallowed, DO NOT INDUCE VOMITING. Give large quantities of water. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Get medical attention immediately.
Spills: Most spill pads do not work for HF spills. Ensure that you have spill controls materials for HF available in your lab. 3M Chemical Sorbents, Spillfyter Kollect-A-Kem pillows and pads, and Ansul Spill-X Agent for Acids are examples of materials that are appropriate for HF. All are available from Fisher, Lab Safety Supply and other safety supply vendors.
Use chemical splash goggles, face shield, chemical protective lab coat and/or apron and neoprene or PVC gloves when handling HF. Anyone handling HF should have a tube of 2.5% calcium gluconate gel on hand. Calcium gluconate is only used as a topical antidote for hydrofluoric acid exposure and is not to be used as a prophylaxis. HF-specific spill control materials are required for spills. Avoid moisture and contact with metals. Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Keep in tightly closed polyethylene containers. HF attacks glass and therefore should never be stored in a glass container. Containers of this material may be hazardous when empty since they retain product residues.
HF and HF-contaminated materials should be disposed of as hazardous waste according to Baylor University's general waste procedures.