How Are Acids and Bases Harmful?

According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, acids and bases are corrosive and capable of destroying body tissue. When they come into contact with tissues, concentrated forms of acids cause immediate pain. High concentrations of hydrofluoric acid also result in immediate pain and tissue destruction.

There are several factors that affect the extent of injury, such as the type and concentration of the chemical, the type of injured tissue, the route of exposure and the speed in applying emergency treatment procedures, explains the Berkeley Lab. Weaker concentrations can possibly delay harmful effects by several hours. Typically, skin contact with strong bases does not cause immediate pain and thus goes unnoticed. Hydrofluoric acid contains fluoride ions that penetrate the deep tissue layers and cause bone damage.

The eyes are particularly vulnerable to acids and bases. Additionally, intense airborne exposure tends to lead to pulmonary edema, which is a serious lung irritation that causes fluid production and prevents oxygen transfer to the bloodstream.

Exposure to dilute acids causes redness and irritation, says the BBC. Concentrated acids are corrosive, and they can attack metals and destroy skin upon contact. When skin is exposed to acids, it is important to wash off the spills with plenty of water to prevent any burning and harmful effects.