Media Release - SAFETY CONTROLS FOR TOXIC CHEMICAL
NEED IMPROVEMENT SAYS REPORT
05 Jun 2001
Industry needs to improve workplace controls on exposure to the toxic
and corrosive chemical, hydrofluoric acid, hydrogen fluoride (HF),
according to a report by the National Industrial Chemicals Notification
and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS), released today.
Acute exposure to HF through either inhalation or skin contact has led
to a number of workplace fatalities. Low-level, long-term exposure can
cause bone abnormalities.
Hydrofluoric acid was chosen for a preliminary assessment by NICNAS
because of concern about the chemical's high toxicity and general
Aqueous HF is used widely, especially in varied metal treatment and
cleaning processes. Other important uses include wall and floor
treatments, laboratory analysis, glass etching and cleaning, fabric rust
removal, and etching silicon in the manufacture of semiconductors.
Anhydrous HF is used as an alkylation catalyst at five petroleum
refining sites in Australia.
Public exposure is most likely to occur from skin contact with consumer
products containing HF. Skin contact can cause painful second and third
degree burns, which heal slowly.
The National Drugs and Poisons Scheduling Committee is considering what
concentrations of HF should be available to the public.
The assessment report found there were a number of actions that industry
could take to improve safety, including using substitutes, but that
compliance was poor.
Potential for environmental effects was also found, and NICNAS
recommends that environment monitoring be carried out around sites known
to produce HF incidentally.
The full text of the NICNAS public chemical assessment report on
hydrogen fluoride is available from the NICNAS website at the
The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme
(NICNAS) operates under the Commonwealth Industrial Chemicals
(Notification and Assessment) Act 1989.
NICNAS is a statutory scheme within the portfolio of the Minister for
Health and Ageing. Its approach to the scientific assessment of
chemicals covers toxicity, exposure and use to assess the environmental,
public health and occupational health and safety risk. For more
information see the web site
Nick Miller, NICNAS, (02) 8577 8810 or 0407 228 285