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Nitric Acid

General Description

Synonyms: Aqua fortis; Spirit of niter; White fuming nitric acid (WFNA); Red fuming nitric acid (RFNA); Hydrogen nitrate

OSHA IMIS code: 1860

CAS number: 7697-37-2

Exposure Limits and Health Effects (Updated September 6, 2012)

Standard Set By Exposure Limit Health Effect Codes -- Health Effects and Target Organs
OSHA PEL - General Industry
See 29 CFR 1910.1000 Table Z-1
2 ppm (5 mg/m3) TWA
HE3 -- teeth erosion
HE10 -- chronic bronchitis, chemical pneumonitis
HE14 -- eye, skin, and mucous membrane irritation
OSHA PEL - Construction Industry
See 29 CFR 1926.55 Appendix A
2 ppm (5 mg/m3) TWA
HE3 -- teeth erosion
HE10 -- chronic bronchitis, chemical pneumonitis
HE14 -- eye, skin, and mucous membrane irritation
OSHA PEL - Shipyard Employment
See 29 CFR 1915.1000 Table Z - Shipyards
2 ppm (5 mg/m3) TWA
HE3 -- teeth erosion
HE10 -- chronic bronchitis, chemical pneumonitis
HE14 -- eye, skin, and mucous membrane irritation
NIOSH REL 2 ppm (5 mg/m3) TWA
4 ppm (10 mg/m3) STEL
HE3 -- dental erosion
HE4 -- mouth and throat burns
HE10 -- pulmonary edema (delayed), pneumonitis, bronchitis
HE14 -- eye, skin, and mucous membrane irritation
ACGIH TLV® (1992) 2 ppm (5.2 mg/m3) TWA
4 ppm (10 mg/m3) STEL
HE3 -- teeth erosion
HE4 -- blindness; skin burns, ulcerations, and corrosions; eye burns
HE10 -- chronic obstructive lung disease
HE11 -- coughing, gagging, chest pain, dyspnea, pulmonary edema
HE14 -- ocular, skin, mucous membrane, and respiratory irritation
CAL/OSHA PELs 2 ppm (5 mg/m3) TWA
4 ppm (10 mg/m3) STEL
HE3 -- teeth erosion
HE4 -- blindness; skin burns, ulcerations, and corrosions; eye burns
HE10 -- chronic obstructive lung disease
HE11 -- coughing, gagging, chest pain, dyspnea, pulmonary edema
HE14 -- ocular, skin, mucous membrane, and respiratory irritation

Carcinogenic classification:

  • NTP: Not listed
  • IARC: Not listed
  • EPA: Not listed

EPA Inhalation Reference Concentration (RfC): Not established

ATSDR Inhalation Minimal Risk Levels (MRLs): Not established

NIOSH IDLH concentration: 25 ppm

Notes on other potential health effects and hazards:

  1. Nitric acid is not combustible but enhances combustion of other substances (NIOSH/IPCS 2006).
  2. One death from occupational inhalation of nitric acid was reported to a U.S. poison control center in 2001 (Litovitz et al. 2002).
  3. Another death from occupational inhalation of nitric acid recently occurred when a patient was asymptomatic from exposure to the chemical until more than 50 hours later. He then developed pulmonary edema and acute respiratory distress syndrome before going into fatal circulatory collapse (Murphy et al. 2010).

Partial reference list:

  • ACGIH: Documentation of the Threshold Limit Values (TLVs) and Biological Exposure Indices (BEIs) – Nitric Acid. 2016.
  • Litovitz, T.L. et al.: 2001 Annual Report of the American Association of Poison Control Centers Toxic Exposure Surveillance System. Am. J. Emerg. Med. 20(5): 391-452, 2002.
  • Murphy, CM, Akbarnia, H, and Rose, SR: Fatal pulmonary edema after acute occupational exposure to nitric acid. J Emerg Med. 39(1): 39-43, 2010.
  • NIOSH: Occupational Health Guideline for Nitric Acid. September 1978.
  • NIOSH: Criteria for a Recommended Standard - Occupational Exposure to Nitric Acid. March 1976.
  • NIOSH/CEC/IPCS: International Chemical Safety CardsConcentrated Nitric Acid. October 10, 2006.

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