Hydrochloric acid is the simplest chlorine-based acid system containing water. It is a solution of hydrogen chloride and water, and a variety of other chemical species, including hydronium and chloride ions. It is an important chemical reagent and industrial chemical, used primarily in the production of polyvinyl chloride for plastic. In households, diluted hydrochloric acid is often used as a descaling agent. In the food industry, hydrochloric acid is used as a food additive and in the production of gelatin. Hydrochloric acid is also used in leather processing. This strong acid is highly corrosive and must be handled with appropriate safety precautions. It is the major component of gastric acid. It is routinely used in chemical research laboratories and manufacturing plants.
Its applications include the large-scale production of certain compounds (such as vinyl chloride for polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic), removal of rust and scale from metals, petroleum production, and ore processing. Smaller-scale applications include the production of gelatin and other ingredients in food, and leather processing. Hydrochloric acid has many uses. It is used in the production of chlorides, fertilizers, and dyes, in electroplating, and the photographic, textile, and rubber industries. Hydrochloric acid is corrosive to the eyes, skin, and mucous membranes. Acute (short-term) inhalation exposure may cause eye, nose, and respiratory tract irritation and inflammation, and pulmonary edema in humans. Acute oral exposure may cause corrosion of the mucous membranes, esophagus, and stomach, and dermal contact may produce severe burns, ulceration, and scarring in humans. Chronic (long-term) occupational exposure to hydrochloric acid has been reported to cause gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis, and photosensitization in workers. Prolonged exposure to low concentrations may also cause dental discoloration and erosion. EPA has not classified hydrochloric acid for carcinogenicity.
An estimated 20 million metric tons of hydrochloric acid are produced annually.
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