How To Write A Chemical Formula Given A Chemical Structure 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, a common household acid used primarily in cooking. In industry, it is used in the production of plastics, paints, solvents, paper, textiles and fabrics.

This compound is known to be a simple carboxylic acid and is also known as ethanoic acid. It is naturally produced by the fermentation of alcohol, ethanol. Its chemical formula is CH3COOH. The last hydrogen bonded to the oxygen is released in aqueous solutions, giving the compound an acidic nature. However, it is classified as a weak acid because it does not completely dissociate or separate in its composition in water. The acid is present in biochemical systems and is considered a metabolic product of the breakdown of glucose. Acetic acid occurs naturally in dilute amounts, but is synthesized in a more concentrated form in industry. Its pure form is called glacial acetic acid because it resembles ice. The solid acid melts at 16.7 degrees Celsius.

Diluted concentrations of the acid are safe. For example, vinegar contains about five percent by weight (5%) acetic acid and is generally harmless. At higher concentrations, such as at least ten percent (10%), the acid becomes irritating. It is known as lacrimation, which means that when it gets into the eye, it induces tears and can also cause soreness and conjunctivitis. Severe exposure may cause corneal damage and lead to blindness. It is a skin irritant and causes discoloration, itching, burns and blisters, and thickening of the skin. This does not happen very quickly and it takes a few hours after skin contact with the acid to show signs of irritation. When inhaled, the organic acid irritates the mucous membrane of the nose, throat and bronchi. The secretion of mucus along the mucous membrane causes fluid to accumulate, which causes swelling in the respiratory organs such as the pharynx and lungs. Breathing may be adversely affected so that the exposed person may experience shortness of breath and dizziness. Acid fumes can cause inflammation of the lining of the bronchi (bronchitis). Ingestion of highly concentrated acid erodes tooth enamel, causes burns, abdominal pain, perforation of the gastrointestinal mucosa, vomiting and diarrhea. Once in the bloodstream, dangerous levels of this acid cause the destruction of red blood cells, a process known as hemolysis. This breakdown releases a red pigment called hemoglobin, which is excreted in the urine (hemoglobinuria). Renal failure and shock can result.

Concentrations above 25% are considered corrosive, while concentrations above 90% turn into a flammable acid and can react violently with air at warm temperatures (above 39 degrees Celsius). Therefore, proper precautions must be taken when handling the substance in high concentrations. The following are first aid measures for contact with acid.

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

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

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

4. In case of accidental ingestion, have the victim drink plenty of water if he is conscious. If he is too weak or unconscious, never allow him to take water or liquids by mouth. Do not induce vomiting and do not give fluids or substances other than water. Call a medical professional immediately.

Wear the prescribed uniform when handling acetic acid in laboratories or industrial areas. Do not handle the substance without wearing appropriate nitrile rubber gloves. Always make sure there is proper ventilation in the area.

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