Hydrochloric acid while highly corrosive has a wide range of industrial applications. Historically called as muriatic acid and spirits of salt, hydrochloric acid is widely used in the chemical industry as a chemical reagent in the production of vinyl chloride for PVC plastic and polyurethane. Small-scale use of hydrochloric is for household cleaning, production of gelatin and other food additives and leather processing. With 20 million tonnes of hydrochloric acid produced globally, hcl monitoring becomes highly indispensable because large-scale production of hydrochloric acid is almost always integrated with the industrial scale production of other chemicals.
The health hazards of hydrochloric acid
- Acute inhalation exposure may cause coughing, hoarseness, inflammation and ulceration of the respiratory tract, chest pain and pulmonary edema in humans. Vomiting and diarrhea has been reported among humans including corrosion to the mucous membranes, esophagus and stomach.
- Dermal contact with hydrochloric acid can result into burns, ulceration and scarring.
- Chronic occupational exposure causes gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis and photosensitization including dental discoloration and erosion among workers.
Applications of hcl monitoring in steel making
One of the most important applications of hydrochloric acid is the pickling of steel. This means the removal of or rust or iron oxide scale from iron or steel before subsequent processing like extrusion, rolling, galvanizing and other industrial techniques. Every operation has a stake in the quality of steel products which requires constant hcl monitoring not to mention continuous monitoring systems for other gases such as nitric acid, carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ammonia, nitrogen dioxide and other gases. The scope of applications in a steel mill also requires accurate process measurements that will provide the important data to operators to optimize the steel making process.
The need for stringent hcl monitoring in small-scale industries
- Risk management – risks associated with industrial use of hydrochloric acid can be managed through the application of proper control measures along with staff training, the use of suitable PPE and adherence to risk assessment techniques. The safety of workers and the environment have particular relevance to the use of hcl monitoring and other gas monitoring equipment to measure gas concentrations directly on site.
- Occupational safety – workers should always follow safety measures and should be trained on safety equipment to limit their exposure to hazardous chemical substances.
- Environmental safety – hydrogen chloride release into the environment is not a normal occurrence since the gas is usually used within enclosed and controlled industrial systems. However, once released in liquid form, hydrochloric acid can lower PH levels of water. Industrial wastewater with hydrochloric acid must be neutralized with the addition of a basic alkaline substance before it can be rendered safe for disposal.
- Consumer safety – consumers can come into contact with hydrochloric acid through their household cleaners. Consumers must be aware of the corrosive hazards of hydrochloric acid particularly if it is inhaled or comes into direct contact with the eyes and skin. Consumer products containing hydrochloric acid must be safely assessed with instructions on safety provided in the packaging.