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Accidents Resulting In Personal Injury Or Contamination

Involving Human Contamination by a Hydrofluoric Acid

Symptoms of HF exposure are often delayed for several hours. If you suspect you may have been exposed to HF but are not experiencing any immediate symptoms, apply immediate first aid nonetheless. A quick response can substantially reduce injury.

No person exposed to HF should be allowed to go home or return to work without having seen a doctor who is aware of the nature and extent of the exposure.

Prevent cross contamination: The victim of HF exposure should perform the following actions on him/herself whenever possible. Anyone who provides assistance should use the proper gloves, and other personal protective equipment mentioned in this document, in order to prevent contaminating themselves. Do not use latex gloves; they do not provide an effective barrier against chemicals, especially HF.

Skin exposure:

  • Immediately flush affected areas with cold running water (shower if available). While flushing, remove all contaminated clothing as well as jewelry that could trap HF. Wash the contaminated area with copious amounts of running water for 5 minutes. Speed and thoroughness in washing off the acid is essential. If calcium gluconate gel (2.5%) is not available, continue flushing with water for at least 15 minutes or until medical treatment is given.
  • While the victim is being rinsed with water, someone should call 7666 and say:
  • The person has been exposed to hydrofluoric acid.
  • The person can be found at [give location of victim].
  • Please send an ambulance.
  • Don a new pair of chemical resistant gloves (to prevent possible secondary HF burns) and massage calcium gluconate gel (2.5%) freely into the affected site. Apply the gel as soon as the washing is done. The affected area does not need to be dried first. The gel will turn white (CaF2 precipitate) upon reaction with the acid.
  • Soak the affected area in, or apply compresses of, iced Zephiran solution (a 0.13% aqueous solution of benzalkonium chloride).
  • After these actions have begun, re-examine the victim to ensure no exposure/burn sites have been overlooked.
  • Calcium gluconate gel (2.5%) should be re-applied, or Zephiran soaking repeated, every 10-15 minutes until the ambulance arrives or a physician/EMT gives medical treatment.
  • Provide the following information to the the medical staff:
  • The concentration of the hydrofluoric acid and its (M)SDS.
  • Date, time of exposure, duration of exposure, and how exposure occurred.
  • Body parts affected or exposed, and the percent of body surface area affected.
  • Summary of first aid measure given, including when calcium gluconate gel or Zephiran was first applied, the body areas to which the treatment was applied, and how many times the treatment was applied in total.

Eye exposure:

  • Immediately flush eyes with cool flowing water, preferably at an eyewash station, or sterile eyewash solution. Hold the eyelids open and away from the eye during irrigation to allow thorough flushing of the eyes. If sterile 1% calcium gluconate solution is available, start using it within the first 5 minutes (via continuous drip into eyes), and continue using it as the preferred flushing agent (Do NOT use 2.5% calcium gluconate GEL on the eyes). If sterile 1% calcium gluconate solution is not available, wash with copious amounts of water for 15 minutes while holding eyelids apart.
  • While washing the eye, have someone call 7666 for emergency medical assistance, Calcium gluconate solution (1%), eyewash, clean water, or ice water compresses should be used to continue to irrigate the eye(s) while transporting the victim.

Inhalation of Vapors:

  • Immediately move affected person to fresh air and call 7666 for medical assistance.
  • Keep victim warm, comfortable and quiet.
  • 100% oxygen (10 to 12 L/min flow rate) should be administered as soon as possible by a trained individual.
  • A nebulized solution of 2.5% calcium gluconate may be administered with oxygen by inhalation.
  • Do not give stimulants unless instructed to do so by medical staff.
  • The victim should be examined by a doctor and held for observation for at least 24 hours. The reason is that inhalation of HF fumes may cause swelling in the respiratory tract up to 24 hours after exposure. A person who has inhaled HF vapors may require prophylactic oxygen treatment. Vapor exposure can cause skin and mucous membrane burns and damage to pulmonary tissue. Vapor burns to the skin are treated the same as liquid HF burns.


  • Do not induce vomiting. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person.
  • Have the victim drink large amounts of room temperature water as quickly as possible to dilute the acid.
  • Call 7666 for medical assistance.
  • Have the victim drink several glasses of milk or several ounces of milk of magnesia, Mylanta, Maalox or similar products, or eat up to 30 Tums, Caltrate or other antacid tablets. The calcium or magnesium in these substances may act as an antidote. Avoid administering bicarbonates at all costs, the carbon dioxide by product could severely injure the victim.