At approximately 1 PM today, officials forced hundred of residents in Oshkosh, Wisconsin (Which is located in Winnebago County. Wisconsin has great place names) to evacuate the area due to a chemical spill from the Hydrite Chemical Company. According to officials, around 600 gallons of muriatic acid (better known as hydrochloric acid) was spilled from a 7,000 gallon tank due to a crack in a tank.
Luckily for the residents of Oshkosh, safety precautions had been taken by the Hydrite Chemical company and the acid simply spilled into a latrine-like-moat that had been dug around the tank for this specific purpose. Because of this, the evacuation order only lasted for about 3 hours and city officials believe there will be no harmful side-effects from the spill.
In case there was some spillage into the outside community, John Holland, of the Oshkosh Fire Department, gave the following advice: “However if you do, if people have a burning in their respiratory tract, what they should do, their first step should be getting out to fresh air and if it continues for awhile then they should seek medical attention.”
So, what exactly is muriatic acid? As previously stated, muriatic acid is a version of hydrochloric acid, chemical formula HCl. The word muriatic means “of, pertaining to, or obtained from, sea salt, or from chlorine, one of the constituents of sea salt.” So, muriatic acid is a spirits of salt acid. Muriatic acid is used for multiple purposes, mainly in household cleaners, to make PVC pipe, and as a food additive to help digestion.
If it is used in acid, why is it dangerous? Good question, audience. Muriatic acid is a very corrosive acid which seeks out moisture and mucus in the human body. Thus, if it comes into contact with human skin, it causes severe burns and potentially blindness if it comes in contact with the eyes. One can also be injured by inhaling the fumes of muriatic acid, where the HCl bonds to the moisture in the lungs causing burning, hoarseness, coughing, shortness of breath, and potentially fluid on the lungs.
Which makes me wonder, why was I allowed to play with HCl in chemistry class in high school? Geez.