Hydrofluoric acid (HF) – widely used in resources, industrial and laboratory processes - is an extremely corrosive liquid and a contact poison.
Hydrofluoric acid is particularly dangerous because it penetrates tissue more quickly than typical acids and systemic toxicity can occur via contact with skin, eyes or swallowing. Hydrofluoric acid interferes with nerve function, meaning that burns may not initially be painful.
Accidental exposures can go unnoticed, delaying treatment and increasing the extent and seriousness of the injury. More seriously, once absorbed into blood through the skin, it reacts with blood calcium and may cause cardiac arrest or amputation, and has been fatal in extreme cases.
The acid is one of the major targets of the new FAST-ACT (First Applied Sorbent Treatment – Against Chemical Threats) rapid response safety kit, from Enware Australia , which offers one-step neutralisation of either liquid or vapour spills of some of the world’s most highly toxic chemicals in addition to HF.
Enware Product Manager Scott Whittaker says the effectiveness of FAST-ACT first response treatment products range is particularly relevant to applications such as:
- Oil refining, where hydrofluoric acid is used as a catalyst in the standard oil refinery process known as alkylation. Diluted hydrofluoric acid is also used in the petroleum industry, mixed with other acids, to stimulate production of water, oil and gas wells.
- Production of organofluorine compounds, including those used in the production of Teflon, fluoropolymers, fluorocarbons and refrigerants.
- Etchant and cleaning agent in metal processing.
- Niche applications, including dissolving rock samples.
For industrial applications, wall-mounted FAST-ACT units can be tailored to user requirements, employing 70g, 300g, 500g, 3kg and 5kg shaker tubs of the product, and 1, 2 and 4kg “fire extinguisher” style pressurised cylinders for liquids, vapour and off-gassing.
FAST-ACT helps neutralise toxic chemical incidents rapidly (liquid or vapour), facilitating rescues where these are needed and reducing the need for total evacuations.