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Hydrofluoric Acid Fact Sheet

This fact sheet is part of a series of chemical fact sheets developed by TURI to help Massachusetts companies, community organizations and residents understand the chemical's use and health and environmental effects, as well as the availability of safer alternatives. Since Massachusetts companies report usage under the Toxics Use Reduction Act, readers will learn how the chemicals are being used and by which companies.

Hydrofluoric acid is extremely corrosive. Acute exposures are especially hazardous and can result in severe burns or respiratory damage. U. S. manufacturers use hydrofluoric acid to produce fluorocarbons, aluminum and other chemical products. Metal pickling and etching applications are the primary end-uses for hydrofluoric acid in Massachusetts. Hydrofluoric acid use is on the decline in Massachusetts. However, produced as an unintended byproduct, coal-fired power plants are a potential source of public exposure to hydrofluoric acid.

Hydrofluoric acid is not classified as a carcinogen due to lack of data. Increased rates of cancer have been observed in workers exposed to a mixture of chemicals that included fluoride, but no single chemical was identified as the cause of the cancer.  Occupational studies of women exposed to fluoride identified increased rates of menstrual irregularities. Animal studies have also found that fluoride impairs reproduction and increases the rates of fetal bone and teeth malformation.  Animal studies have also found increased rates of kidney and liver damage from hydrofluoric acid inhalation.

Learn more about hydrofluoric acid health effects, use in Massachusetts, and alternatives here.