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Formic acid sources, health risks

Saturday, October 28, 2017 by

Formic acid is classified as the simplest form of carboxylic acid. The chemical is known to occur naturally and can be found in the venom of bee and ant stings. According to the open chemistry database Pub Chem, formic acid is a colorless but otherwise pungent liquid that is highly corrosive to both metal and tissue. An article published on the Acidpedia website notes that the corrosive compound is commonly used in leather production. Likewise, the highly acidic substance is used in textile and rubber production. The chemical’s acidic nature and antibacterial properties have also made it a popular pesticide choice in the agriculture industry, the article adds.

Harmful effects that can be caused by formic acid

safety data sheet published by the National Institute for occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has revealed that formic acid exposure may result in a host of adverse health conditions. The entry notes that inhaling the harmful compound may cause severe respiratory irritation characterized by coughing, burning sensation, labored breathing and unconsciousness. People who have inhaled the harmful compound should be brought to an area with fresh air and placed in a half-upright position. It is also recommended to seek medical assistance when such an event occurs. The entry stresses on the importance of  installing ventilation and wearing breathing protection equipment to prevent exposure and inhalation.

Formic acid is known to impact the digestive tract as well. Exposure to the corrosive substance may induce a variety of digestive issues characterized by sore throat, abdominal pain and abdominal cramps as well as vomiting and diarrhea. The safety data sheet recommends that victims immediately rinse the mouth with running water and consult a doctor following ingestion.

Formic acid exposure may also lead to severe skin irritation. The safety data sheet cautions that the corrosive chemical may be absorbed by the skin, which then causes pain, blisters and serious skin burns. The NIOSH entry recommends that people remove contaminated clothing and wash the affected skin with lots of water. Likewise, the safety guidelines advise that affected patients seek medical attention following the exposure. The entry also highlights the importance of using gloves and protective clothing in order to prevent skin contact.

Moreover, the highly toxic substance is found to impact eye health as well. According to the safety data sheet, formic acid exposure may severely irritate the eyes and cause pain, redness and deep burns. Direct eye contact may also induce blurred vision, the entry adds. People exposed to the corrosive acid are advised to wash the eyes with plenty of water as a precautionary measure. Victims are also advised to seek immediate medical assistance. The safety data sheet calls for eye protection equipment such as face shield, to be combined with a breathing protection equipment, in order to avoid eye exposure.

Body systems harmed by formic acid

Formic acid is particularly detrimental to the respiratory tract’s overall wellness. Likewise, the corrosive acid is harmful to both the eyes and the skin. The toxic substance is also found to negatively impact digestive health.

Where to learn more


Formic acid exposure raises the odds of respiratory tract irritation.

Formic acid may cause severe eye irritation and skin conditions.

Formic acid exposure may result in various digestive conditions.

Formic acid is particularly detrimental to the respiratory system.

Formic acid negatively affects both eye and skin health.

Formic acid is harmful to the digestive tract.


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