Articles Posted in Chemical Burns

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In eastern Pennsylvania last week, a machine battery at a production plant overheated and ruptured, and then began leaking acid onto other batteries that were nearby. This caused the other batteries to melt and release poisonous smoke that filled the entire building.

Although all employees evacuated safely, a number of them later in that week experienced breathing problems, coughing, headaches and other illness. Doctors who treated these employees said that in most cases, the lungs and throat are mildly inflamed from the smoke inhalation (the smoke contains hydrogen cyanide and carbon monoxide in it, both of which are potentially deadly in humans). The doctors’ suggested remedy: Drink lots of water and take Advil or another ibuprofen product to reduce the inflammation in the body. It was fortunate that no employees touched the leaking batteries, as it is very easy to suffer third degree burns from battery acid.

Although there will probably not be a lawsuit filed against the company for legal liability due to negligence–batteries do sometimes overheat and leak–this story is a good reminder for anyone who work in an industrial facility: make sure the facility has working smoke detectors, and also know where the emergency exits are so you can escape quickly even if visibility is bad due to a smoke condition. Also, be sure to get your face down to the floor in order to avoid smoke inhalation–when there is smoke or fire, the cleanest air to breathe is down at floor level.

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In Portland, Oregon last week, a 59-year-old man suffered severe chemical burns on more than half of his body, all because he tried to do something we all do at one time or another: He tried to clean stains from his clothing with a cleaning solution.

Cleaning chemicals have strong, dangerous odors that can overpower a person and make them unconscious quickly. What’s more, the chemicals can also create severe burns when they come in contact with the skin. When using such cleaning chemicals, people should wear protective gear and work only in a well-ventilated area, or else risk suffering burns to the skin, eyes, or lungs.

The Portland man came home from his job working on a crane. He told his wife he was going to use chemicals in the bathtub try to clean grease stains from his coat. But when his wife came home a few hours later, she smelled an overwhelming odor similar to paint thinner. She then found her husband in the bathtub, with his clothes drenched in a solvent-based chemical. She called emergency medical personnel.

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Chemical burns of the skin are burns that happen when strong acids or strong bases (alkalies) come in contact with the skin. Chemical burns follow the standard burn classification (first part I, II, second and third degree part I, II), most chemical burns occur on the face, eyes, arms and legs.

Clinical features:

The exact clinical features of a chemical burn depends on the type of chemical substance involved, it’s concentration, it’s physical form, duration of contact, site of contact, whether or not the skin is intact and if the substance is swallowed or inhaled. Symptoms may include: