Don’t Get Burned by Hydrofluoric Acid Toxicity

According to the Taiwan National Poison Center, 324 cases of Hydrofluoric Acid poisoning occurred from 1991 to 2010, occupational causes account for 80% of the poisoning and mainly due to skin exposure. Of the cases analyzed, 61% are in the semiconductor industry, 15% are in the cleaning industry, 13% are in the chemical or metal industry and the remaining 11% are in other industries.

If after finishing your job, your fingers are red, swollen and painful, do you or your colleague have the ability to respond to emergencies? The discomfort intensified after a few hours and became blue-gray or black necrosis. Is it too late for life savings? Do you know the appropriate protective measures to avoid such regrets instead of facing occupational safety disasters?

What is Hydrofluoric Acid?

Hydrofluoric acid (HF), which termed as ‘The Bone Seeker’, has been used in glass etching, rust removal, petroleum refining, tanning and dyeing since mass production in 1931. It has become an indispensable raw material for the semiconductor industry and an important catalyst in the petrochemical process. Depending on its concentration, exposure to HF can cause death.

Is It Possible to Contact Hydrofluoric Acid in Daily Life?

HF can be found in household cleaning agents such as powerful detergents, home rust stain removers, metal cleaners and wheel cleaners. HF is also used to produce fluorocarbons used in aerosol sprays and in refrigerants. HF exposure usually is unintentional and often due to inadequate use of protective measures.

What Are the Appropriate Protective Measures Against Hydrofluoric Acid?

We can refer to the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) and national standards when selecting appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). In addition to wearing protective clothing that passes the HF test, it is recommended to wear impermeable gloves, goggles, full face mask, or safety boots. Besides, the plumbed-in eyewash and shower equipment has to function normally, and physiological saline, Hexafluorine and calcium gluconate should be ready to respond to emergencies anytime.

What Harm Does Hydrofluoric Acid Cause to the Human Body?

HF is a weak acid but highly toxic and corrosive. The harm to the human body can be divided into the skin, respiratory tract, eye, and digestive tract. The main cause that contributes to a life-threatening situation is still skin exposure. There might be no obvious symptoms at the beginning, but if it is not treated in time, the black necrosis of the affected part must be amputated or even cause death.


  1. Institute of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health, Ministry of Labor
  2. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, Ministry of Labor
  3. Ming-Ling Wu, M.D. (2019). Taipei Veterans General Hospital Department of Clinical Toxicology & Occupational Medicine
  4. Corporate ESH Division (2019). Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company Limited (TSMC)
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