Report Finds Car Wash Workers at Risk for Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure
A new report published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has warned that chemicals commonly used by car washes can be hazardous to workers. The data, which was gathered by the Washington Department of Labor and Industries, analyzed workers’ compensation reports from 2001 to 2013.
According to the research, 48 workers were burned by hydrofluoric acid, a caustic chemical. One of the 48 cases was fatal: a worker accidentally ingested hydrofluoric acid. Hydrofluoric acid, a mixture of hydrogen fluoride and water, can cause tissue and lung damage.
How Can Hydrofluoric Acid Exposure Harm Car Wash Workers?
The CDC report warned exposure to hydrofluoric acid could cause severe burns and fatal toxicity. Auto detailers and car wash workers often use hydrofluoric acid to brighten aluminum surfaces. Some of the injured workers mentioned in the report suffered burns to the eyes, hands and head from handling the dangerous substance. Three workers reportedly suffered third degree burns, the most serious type.
In one horrifying example provided by the CDC, a worker accidentally splashed hydrofluoric acid on his leg. He was unable to notice the burn, and hours later, discovered a necrotic wound had eaten away at his ankle. The worker required rehabilitation and skin grafts to recover from his injuries.
Employers must ensure workers who use dangerous chemicals have protective equipment to prevent overexposure and injuries. In this specific case, the CDC recommends using safer alternatives to hydrofluoric acid.
Workers injured by dangerous chemicals might have options for workers’ compensation and other benefits.
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