What Is Sulfuric Acid Vapor?

John Markley
John Markley
Sulfuric acid vapor can cause burns in a person's respiratory tract.
Sulfuric acid vapor can cause burns in a person's respiratory tract.

Sulfuric acid vapor is sulfuric acid (H2SO4) that is in a gaseous state but is low enough in temperature that it can be condensed into liquid by changes in pressure without a change in temperature. People can be exposed to dangerous levels of vapor as a result of things such as working at an industrial site where sulfuric acid is used and coming into contact with ruptured automobile batteries and laboratory accidents. Sulfuric acid is highly corrosive, and exposure to its vapor is a serious health hazard. Victims should should be removed from the source of the vapor, taken into fresh air, and provided with medical attention as quickly as possible.

Damage caused by sulfuric acid vapor can be compounded by heat exposure and subsequent dehydration.
Damage caused by sulfuric acid vapor can be compounded by heat exposure and subsequent dehydration.

Especially dangerous to living beings, sulfuric acid is very reactive with water and produces a great deal of heat while reacting with it in addition to being corrosive enough to burn human skin and flesh. Consequently, the damage caused by the initial corrosive effects is compounded by additional damage from intense heat during exposure and the subsequent dehydration of damaged tissues. Under United States labor workplace regulations, the legal limit for workplace levels of sulfuric acid vapor levels in the air is 1 milligram of acid per cubic meter. The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists, an organization that produces widely used guidelines for safe chemical exposure, also gives a maximum safe limit for extended workplace exposure of milligrams per cubic meter as well as a maximum safe short-term exposure of 3 milligrams per cubic meter.

Personal protective equipment is typically required for all workers who may be exposed to sulfuric acid vapor.
Personal protective equipment is typically required for all workers who may be exposed to sulfuric acid vapor.

If inhaled, sulfuric acid vapor can cause serious chemical burns to the inside of the mouth, nose, and respiratory tract, resulting in pain and difficulty breathing. It can also cause a buildup of fluid, called edema, in the lungs, bronchi, or larynx; chemical pneumonitis, or inflammation of the lungs; and lung spasms. These symptoms can be fatal if they impair breathing enough to cause respiratory failure.

If inhaled, sulfuric acid vapor can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs.
If inhaled, sulfuric acid vapor can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs.

Even when not inhaled, the vapor is dangerous. Contact with the skin can cause painful blistering, burns, and necrosis. Coming in contact with the eyes can cause irritation, burning, or blurred vision, and if severe enough, can cause permanent damage to the victim's sense of sight.

In addition to the damage from a single incident of concentrated exposure, repeated exposure to low levels of sulfuric acid vapor over time can cause chronic skin, eye, and respiratory inflammation. If inhaled or exhaled through the mouth, it can also cause dental erosion. Frequent low-level exposure to sulfuric acid vapors is also associated with an increased risk of cancer in the lungs and respiratory tract.

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    • Sulfuric acid vapor can cause burns in a person's respiratory tract.
      By: decade3d
      Sulfuric acid vapor can cause burns in a person's respiratory tract.
    • Damage caused by sulfuric acid vapor can be compounded by heat exposure and subsequent dehydration.
      By: Maridav
      Damage caused by sulfuric acid vapor can be compounded by heat exposure and subsequent dehydration.
    • Personal protective equipment is typically required for all workers who may be exposed to sulfuric acid vapor.
      By: Destonian
      Personal protective equipment is typically required for all workers who may be exposed to sulfuric acid vapor.
    • If inhaled, sulfuric acid vapor can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs.
      By: CLIPAREA.com
      If inhaled, sulfuric acid vapor can cause a buildup of fluid in the lungs.
    • Sulfuric acid vapor coming into contact with the eyes can cause irritation and burning.
      By: Rob hyrons
      Sulfuric acid vapor coming into contact with the eyes can cause irritation and burning.
    • If inhaled through the mouth, sulfuric acid vapor can cause dental erosion.
      By: Rangzen
      If inhaled through the mouth, sulfuric acid vapor can cause dental erosion.
    • A sulfuric acid burn should be irrigated profusely with water.
      By: g215
      A sulfuric acid burn should be irrigated profusely with water.