Corrosive chemicals and agents cause untold damage to people and materials. Many chemicals and gases are highly toxic and can cause nasty injuries and even death. Any industry that deals with corrosive substances must have strict health and safety measures in place, to prevent accidents and fatalities. It is also essential to use equipment and machinery that is resistant to corrosion.
Most corrosive agents fall into three categories: acids, alkalis, and salts. Many of them need air and/or water to be corrosive, which is why iron, a ferrous material, rusts when exposed to salt and water.
The main corrosive chemicals in common use are:
Sulfuric acid is used in lots of industries. It is found in lead-based car batteries, and it’s used to make glue, explosives, and in the petroleum refinery industry.
Sodium hydroxide is used in cotton processing and the manufacturing of products like soap, dyes, paper, and petroleum products. It is also used in industrial processes like electroplating, metal cleaning, and electrolytic extraction.
Hydrogen chloride has many uses. It is found in food production, cleaning materials, and leather tanning factories. It is worth noting that many common food products, including ketchup and sports drinks, contain chlorides. The corrosive qualities of chlorides in food production represent many challenges, and the use of alloy materials such as AL6 XN is essential to prevent corrosion damage to pipes.
Ammonia is used in fertilizers, synthetic fiber manufacturing, explosives, dyes, and pharmaceuticals, among other things. Because it is highly corrosive, exposure to ammonia gas causes intense irritation and burning to the eyes, throat, and nose. Prolonged exposure will lead to serious health issues and death.
Glycolic acid is a common component in beauty products thanks to its corrosive exfoliation properties. It can remove the top layer of skin and reverse age spots, sun damage, and acne scars.
Bromine is used in agriculture, pharmaceuticals, electronics, and more. It is found in insecticides, plastics, and even furniture. It is a very corrosive chemical in liquid and gas form. If bromine gas is inhaled, it is highly toxic.
Hydrogen peroxide is a common component of bleach and hair dyes. If you dye your hair platinum blonde, the main ingredient is hydrogen peroxide. It is also used in antiseptics and household cleansers.
Protecting Yourself from Corrosive Chemicals
Protective equipment is essential when handling corrosive chemicals. Even relatively minor corrosive agents like household bleach can cause skin damage and are dangerous when splashed in the eyes or swallowed. Always wear nitrile gloves when handling the most corrosive chemicals, in addition to wearing protective aprons and overalls. Eyes should be protected with safety glasses and if dealing with corrosive gases, a respiratory mask or hood should be worn.
In a laboratory or manufacturing environment, regulators and valves must be used to regulate the flow of corrosive gases and pipework and other elements must be resistant to corrosion.
Always ensure all employees are fully trained when handling corrosive chemicals. Health and safety are paramount.