Enter A Formula In The Selected Cell To Display Precentage Acetic Acid – Health Risks and First Aid Procedures

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Acetic Acid – Health Risks and First Aid Procedures

Acetic acid is the most important organic acid. It is found in vinegar, which is a common household acid and is mainly used in cooking. In industries, it is used to manufacture plastics, paints, solvents, paper, textiles and clothing.

This compound is known as a simple carboxylic acid, and is also known as ethonic acid. It naturally results from the fermentation of ethanol, an alcohol. Its chemical formula is CH3COOH. The last hydrogen attached to the oxygen is given off in aqueous solution and gives the compound its acidic nature. However, it is classified as a weak acid because it does not completely dissociate or dissociate into its component ions in water. Acid occurs in biochemical systems and appears as a metabolic product during the breakdown of glucose. Acetic acid occurs naturally in dilute amounts, but in industry it is synthesized into more concentrated forms. Its pure form is called glacial acetic acid because it resembles ice. The solid acid melts at 16.7°C.

Dilute concentrations of acid are safe. For example, vinegar contains about five percent (5%) of acetic acid by mass and is generally harmless. At higher concentrations, say at least ten percent (10%) acid is an irritant. It is a known lachrymator which means it causes tear secretion when it comes in contact with the eyes and can also cause pain and conjunctivitis. In severe exposure, corneal damage can occur and lead to blindness. It is a skin irritant and causes discoloration, itching, burning of the skin, and thickening of the skin. It doesn’t happen very quickly and it takes a few hours for the symptoms of irritation to appear after the skin is exposed to the acid. Inhaled carbonic acid burns the nose, throat and bronchial lining. Mucous secretions along the lining build up fluid, causing inflammation in the respiratory organs such as the pharynx and lungs. Adverse effects may occur on the respiratory tract, causing difficulty breathing and dizziness in exposed individuals. Acid fumes can cause inflammation of the bronchial lining (bronchitis). Ingestion of highly concentrated acid erodes tooth enamel, causing burning, stomach pain, perforation of the gastrointestinal lining, vomiting and diarrhea. After entering the blood stream, dangerous levels of this acid cause the destruction of red blood cells called hemolysis. This breakdown releases a red pigment called hemoglobin that is excreted in the urine (hemoglobinuria). Kidney failure and shock may occur.

Concentrations above 25% are considered corrosive, while at concentrations above 90% it becomes a flammable acid and can cause violent reactions when exposed to air at warm temperatures (above 39°C). Therefore handling the substance in high concentrations should be done with proper precautions. Following are the first aid measures for acid exposure.

1. After inhalation, move the person immediately to a safe place with open, fresh air. Seek medical help immediately, especially if the victim has lost consciousness.

2. When skin comes into contact with concentrated acid, wash affected area with running water to reduce burning sensation and further irritation. Call for medical assistance and remove contaminated clothing.

3. In case of eye contact, flush the affected eye with clean running water for ten minutes (the eyelid should be kept open during this procedure). Do not hesitate to call for medical help.

4. In case of accidental ingestion, give the victim plenty of water to drink if he is conscious. Do not give him or her water or any other liquids by mouth if he or she is very weak or unconscious. Do not induce vomiting and do not give any liquids or substances other than water. Call a medical professional immediately.

Wear the prescribed uniform when handling acetic acid in a laboratory or industrial area. Do not handle the substance without wearing suitable nitrile rubber gloves. Always ensure proper ventilation in the area.

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