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16. (1995):

Hydrofluoric Acid, HF

Hydrogen fluoride is extremely corrosive. It is a fuming, colourless liquid at normal atmospheric pressure and less than 19oC. Above 19oC, hydrogen fluoride is a gas. Hydrogen fluoride is industrially available as a liquid under pressure (anhydrous hydrofluoric acid) or more commonly, as an aqueous solution (aqueous hydrofluoric acid (HF)), with a concentration in the range of 30 - 70 % HF w/v[1]. The most common concentration for analytical grade HF is 48 % HF w/v[2].

Hydrofluoric acid is commonly used for digesting minerals, etching glass, and as a fluorinating agent, metal pickling, and more.

Hydrofluoric acid exposure[3] may be -

Acute (short term) -

Chronic (long term) - Chronic poisoning is not common.

A recent incident[4] demonstrates just how dangerous hydrofluoric acid can be -

Whilst sitting at a fume cupboard processing mineral samples, a laboratory technician knocked approximately 100 mL of hydrofluoric acid onto his thighs. Immediate 10 % body burns ensued, despite rapid flushing with water and emergency hospitalisation. The following week his leg was amputated, however, the individual eventually succumbed to the toxic effects of the HF. He died 15 days after the accident.

Several factors contributed to the accident -

Recommendations (check these against your work place) - Additional information - Additional information is available from the OHS Unit. 


Treatment for Hydrofluoric acid[3]


In large burns of over 160 cm2, or in cases of ingestion and severe inhalation, calcium and/or magnesium may be severely reduced in the blood serum.
Give calcium and ascorbic acid in water by mouth every two hours until admitted to hospital. Frequent electrolyte monitoring will decide future conduct in the case.
Keep this sheet accessible for an emergency.


Patty's Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, Volume 2B: Toxicology, 3rd edition, 1981, John Willey & Sons, USA.

BDH Laboratory Supplies 1994/95, Merck Pty Ltd.

Environmental & Industrial Health Hazards, a Practical Guide, R.A. Trevethick, 2nd edition, 1980, William Heinemann Medical Books Ltd, London.

Significant Incident Summary, Department of Occupational Health, Safety and Welfare, WA.

Worksafe Australia Guide, Hydrogen Fluoride, 1989.


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Last modified : 28 November 1997
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