With a chemical formula of NH03, nitric acid is one of those substances used in laboratory processes, and while it has various valuable uses, it has a potential to be dangerous if not used properly. Colorless or light yellow, the substance is highly corrosive and it is a strong oxidizing agent. Concentrated nitric acid is not compatible with many substances, which include metallic bases, strong bases, hydrogen sulfide, carbides, turpentine, and combustible organics.
Considering the above-mentioned properties of the substance, its proper handling and use must be taken into account. One of the immediate things that must be done when storing the chemical product is to appropriately label its container. Labeling of the substance will help avoid accidental ingestion or swallowing of the substance. You should know that ingestion of the chemical product can cause burns to the mouth as well as to the throat, esophagus, and stomach. Moreover, there are cases that it can lead to death.
It must also be stocked in a storage area that is cool, dry, and has good ventilation. Make sure that it is not exposed to direct sunlight and the aforementioned incompatible materials. Remember to add the acid slowly to water and in small amounts when diluting. It is a no-no to add water to the acid, for it can result to uncontrolled boiling and splashing.
The substance is indeed a strong acid and its contact with your skin and eyes can cause burns and may result to permanent damage to the eyes. Thus, it is strongly advised to wear safety glasses when handling the chemical product. If you are handling nitric acid which has a concentration of up to 70%, consider using gloves, especially those that are either made of neoprene, butyl rubber, or polyethylene.
There are things that you can immediately do when accidents take place, though. When someone ingests the substance, do not commit the mistake of inducing vomiting. What should be done instead is to give the victim with plenty of water. You can also give the victim milk, if it is available. If skin contact takes place, immediately flush the affected skin with a good amount of water for at least 15 minutes. You can also do the same to the affected eye if the substance comes into contact with your eye or eyes. In case of inhalation of the vapor of the substance, go to a spot where there is fresh air.
Yes, accidents with regard to the use of the substance can happen, but its value in the society should not be disregarded. One of its main uses is being a component in the preparation and manufacture of fertilizers such as ammonium nitrate. It also proves useful in the jewelry industry as when the substance is combined with hydrochloric acid, aqua regia is formed; aqua regia is able to dissolve precious metals just like platinum and gold.
Nitric acid is also a component in making explosives, which include trinitrotoluene or T.N.T and nitroglycerine. It is also used in the production of fungicides, perfumes, dyes, and several drugs, etching designs on brass, bronze ware, and copper, and in reprocessing spent nuclear fuels.
As in almost anything in life, accidents can be prevented by being informed, being careful and by following directions. Handling and using a potentially dangerous substance such as nitric acid entails responsibility. Being ignorant is not an excuse. Ask questions when in doubt. Read labels and instructions carefully. Remember that there are many things at stake when the substance is not used properly, and these include not only your health but also the health of the people around you.