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What is Phosphoric Acid?

Phosphoric acid is a colorless, odorless mineral acid. With an acidic taste and somewhat viscous consistency, phosphoric acid is used in a wide variety of products and industries. Despite its popularity, this chemical can pose some potentially significant health hazards and should be handled with caution.

Common Uses of Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid is used in several industries. Fertilizer accounts for the majority of phosphoric acid use, but this chemical can also be found in:

  • Food additives (to acidify foods, or as a leavening agent)
  • Soaps and detergents
  • Water treatment
  • Toothpastes
  • Rust removal
  • Etching solutions in dentistry
  • Teeth whiteners
  • Cleaning products

Health Hazards Associated with Phosphoric Acid

Phosphoric acid can be very hazardous in the case of skin contact, eye contact, and ingestion. It can also cause irritation if vapors are inhaled. This chemical can cause damage to the skin, eyes, mouth, and respiratory tract. Because of the potential hazards posed by this chemical, it is important to use care when handling it.

Repeated or prolonged exposure to phosphoric acid mist can lead to chronic eye irritation, severe skin irritation, or prolonged respiratory tract issues. To protect your health when handling this potentially hazardous chemical, it is important to use caution in the form of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Phosphoric Acid Safety, Handling & First Aid

When handing phosphoric acid, use a certified vapor respirator. Eye-wash stations and safety showers should be located near work stations as a precaution. A face shield, gloves and boots should also be used. In case of accidental exposure to phosphoric acid, follow these first aid guidelines:

  • Inhalation—Seek fresh air and immediate medical attention.
  • Eye Contact—Remove contact lenses if present. Immediately flush eyes with plenty of water for at least 15 minutes, and get medical attention.
  • Skin Contact—Wash skin with soap and water. Cover any irritated skin with an emollient. Seek medical attention.
  • Ingestion—Do NOT induce vomiting. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Seek medical attention if any adverse health symptoms occur.

Safe Storage & Disposal of Phosphoric Acid

Store phosphoric acid in a cool, well-ventilated area protected from moisture. Keep away from incompatible substances such as oxidizing agents, metals, combustible materials, and alkalis. This chemical should be stored in a metallic or coated fiberboard container using a strong polyethylene inner package. Dispose of this chemical in accordance with federal, state, and local environmental control regulations.

Need more safety information about phosphoric acid or other chemicals in your workplace? Check out our extensive library of MSDS information here.