Hazards of Hydrofluoric Acid

Explosion at Valero plant

Explosion at Valero plant

We know most Multi-Etch customers are small users compared to oil refineries and some other industrial users. Nevertheless, we thought it prudent to remind people of the hazards of using hydrofluoric acid (HF), whether you use a little or a lot.

Texas City, TX, has been the scene of several accidents involving HF, including significant events in 1987 , 2005, and 2018 .

A Multi-Etch customer sent us the following anecdote.

"Hi, I lived in Texas City, and one day, one of the plants had to emergency dump some HF out of one of its stacks into the air. The emergency warnings went out, but it was too late. However it was a small amount and got diluted as it traveled with the slow wind. It was a small cloud of it that got released. I went down to the plant about a week after, and you could track where the gas had been by the size hole it made in the trees. At about 1/4 mile it ate a 6 foot diameter hole near the top of the trees, about 1/2 mile it had killed off about a 25 foot wide swath of tree tops. It got more diluted past a mile where the high school was, and no damage past that.

I still have that good memory of a 6 foot hole going through the trees, and I'm never going near HF acid!"

We have collected a number of articles, listed below, about the hazards to oil refinery and other industrial workers, as well as one fatality from a consumer product. Although Multi-Etch cannot be substituted for HF in oil refinery use, there are safer alternatives. All of these stories renew our goal of getting the industries that can give up or reduce their use of HF to do so.

ABC coverage of a 2018 Texas City leak of HF and other contaminants is described here
https://abc13.com/3367419/

ABC coverage of a 1987 Texas City acid leak is here
https://abc.com/shows/houston-eyewitness-news/video/vdka14006276

This article covers accidents involving HF at several refineries and describes experiments showing how clouds of HF move across the landscape:
https://www.fairwarning.org/2011/03/use-of-toxic-acid-puts-millions-at-risk/

Below is a clinical description of HF damage, leading to death. Warning: graphic photos!
https://www.oatext.com/Chemical-burn-caused-by-high-concentration-hydrofluoric-acid-a-case-that-followed-a-lethal-course.php

The bodily damage sustained by another oil refinery worker is described below. Warning: graphic photos!
https://www.emsworld.com/article/10319665/hydrofluoric-acid-what-you-need-know

Death in a lab
https://www.chem.purdue.edu/chemsafety/chem/HFfatality.html

Consumer product recall following death of toddler
https://www.chron.com/business/article/Clorox-Recalls-Cleaner-After-Child-s-Death-2829138.php