Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Health effects of acute, low concentration acid vapors.

fdnjj6 - 22-7-2020 at 18:23

I perform experiments not too often and am not exposed to vapors often. Whenever I perform nitrations where RFNA is made in situ, or when I know there is a possibility of some corrosive chemicals during any experiment I wear a respirator with proper filters. However, sometimes I didn't wear one since the fumes were minimal and I tended to not wear one when there were very low concentrations of vapors and I was working outside anyway. A small opposite wind gust would sometimes blow a bit of fumes my way. I have a quick reflex that makes me exhale a little to "purge" my air ways, hold my breath, and just move to different spots. With the concentrated vapors the same was true.

Sometimes I would feel a very slight irritation in my airway, as in the back of my throat. It was typically only the back of my throat and I had never inhaled the vapors deeply. I never got such a strong whiff that it made me cough or have any adverse effects besides maybe slightly watery eyes.

My question is if the slight corrosion of my airways from such a small exposure causes permanent damage? I imagine not and nowadays I wear my PPE religiously but every once in a while I still have an accidental whiff of acid fumes. Is this analogous to getting a slight scratch to the skin that heals quickly? Since it's irritation at most I feel like it's fine and might not even have done any damage at all. The irritation often just feels like a bit of a dry throat than anything and since I am getting pretty paranoid about my safety with this hobby I can't help but think that it's often my mind playing tricks on me.

Metacelsus - 23-7-2020 at 06:02

Long-term (years) exposure to acid vapors is known to cause an increased risk of cancer. See:

But as long as you're not doing it regularly, I wouldn't be worried.

Fery - 24-7-2020 at 10:57

Airways are wet so traces of acid vapors are immediately neutralized with HCO3-. But higher concentrations and longer exposure may overwhelm the internal buffers (HCO3- system). Airways irritation increases the secretion so the capacity for neutralization increases. NOx do also different damage than acid itself (H3O+).

zed - 10-8-2020 at 02:50

A little HCl here and there, or a little Acetic acid, doesn't trouble me. Nitric acid, and Oxides of Nitrogen, worry me more. But, that's me. I must defer to those that are more expert. I think it's pretty bad, some might disagree.