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topic 34002 p1

Dangers/Toxicity of inhaling muriatic acid fumes

A discussion started in 2005 but continuing through 2018


Q. What would happen if someone inhaled the fumes of Muriatic Acid [linked by editor to product info at Amazon]? My dad accidentally did this at a Vet's office and he is having trouble breathing and having chest pains.

Shannin Strickland
ranch - Ocala, Florida


Hydrochloric Acid

A. Shannin,

This sounds like an obvious situation to me. Tissue can be damaged by muriatic acid, also known as hydrochloric acid. It would be referred to as a chemical burn. Usually the body's response is to stop breathing before too much of it is inhaled. It dissolves into the water contained in the tissues and mucous. A serious exposure could result in pneumonia, damaged lungs and eyes, or possibly death.

The victim should see a medical doctor immediately for any situation involving difficulty breathing, chest pain, etc. And it goes without saying that the vet's office (and any other business) should have an emergency plan for situations involving spills of hazardous materials such as muriatic acid.

paul tibbals
Paul Tibbals, P.E.
    gas & electric
San Ramon, California, USA

(My opinions are not related to nor a statement of my employer's)


A. Inhalation: Corrosive! Inhalation of vapors can cause coughing, choking, inflammation of the nose, throat, and upper respiratory tract, and in severe cases, pulmonary edema, circulatory failure, and death.

First Aid Measures

Inhalation: Remove to fresh air. If not breathing, give artificial respiration. If breathing is difficult, give oxygen. Get medical attention immediately.

Brian Gaylets
lock manufacturer - Scranton, Pennsylvania

Ed. note Nov. 2013: Unfortunately, that website is now gone.


A. Muriatic (hydrochloric) acid is a strong acid and the fumes can be very irritating. While I don't know the circumstances he encountered, I can't believe he inhaled enough of the fumes to cause permanent damage. Hydrochloric acid has an extremely acrid and pungent odor and we have a natural disdain for inhaling more. Once he got the first hit (probably small because he would stop inhaling) he wouldn't continue to just keep breathing in the fumes.

Conversely, if he were in an enclosed room with no ventilation and no means of escaping the fumes, then he obviously could have received some lung damage. I have inhaled acid fumes several times and while it is unpleasant, it is typically does not cause permanent damage.

He should still have his lungs checked by a doctor just to make sure and give him some peace of mind though.

Daryl Spindler
nickel chrome plating - Nashville, Tennessee





thumbsdownI work for a painting contractor, have been for two and a half weeks. The past two days at our current job some of the guys have been spraying Muriatic acid on the concrete floors for prep purposes. They all had respirators on, since I was in other rooms I didn't. Still quite frequently I could smell the fumes which made it seriously difficult to breathe and in order to finish my job I just breathed less. Now night #2 my throat all the way down to the bottom of my lungs hurts, and I'm coughing up excessive phlegm not to mention my body aches all over.
My advice stay as far away from these fumes as possible!

Cory Gordon
- Topeka, Kansas


Q. Hi,
I was cleaning the bathroom and I used some muriatic acid on the flooring. I accidentally inhaled the fumes but I am sure it is only a mild exposure since I coughed it out immediately and went out of the bathroom. And then after a week I discovered I was pregnant. Do you think this exposure would cause a damage to my baby? I think I was 3 weeks pregnant then. Please advise.

Karen Paras
- Makati, Philippines


A. I think the chances of it being harmful to your baby are zero, Karen, but please see a doctor. Never use muriatic acid in a house; it will ruin your chrome, your stainless appliances, and electronic wiring. This acid is a gas dissolved in water, and the gas escapes when sloshed around, similar to the carbonation in soda, so it does this damage to those things even when it is not splashed on them.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey


Q. It would be good to know how long it takes to experience the corrosive effects of muriatic acid if it seems at first like one has inhaled a mild dose. Would one know immediately that something serious has happened or does the effect of the fumes build on the tissues over time?

Wyn Wachhorst
- Atherton, California


A. Again, see your doctor if you are experiencing any symptoms at all . . . but I think you'll know instantly if you are exposed to muriatic acid fumes. The fumes are choking and painful.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 9, 2008

Q. Three weeks ago I was working in a restaurant when someone poured muriatic acid down the drains. All of a sudden we were engulfed by a rotten egg smell. I got on the microphone and told everyone it would be a good idea if everyone would go outside until we knew what was causing the odor. The owner decided to close, so I went back in to pack up my equipment. 2 days later I woke because I couldn't breathe. I have been to the emergency room twice and was given inhalers and steroids. Since the incident I have felt like someone was sitting on my chest, had a constant headache, lightheadedness and numbness in the mouth, shoulders and neck. The hospital recommended I see a neurologist. Everything I have read about exposure says there will be breathing problems but I have read nothing about my other symptoms. My head has been very unclear since the exposure. Can exposure to muriatic acid harm other parts of the body?

Stephanie Burt
- Yuma, Arizona

January 18, 2008

A. Stephanie, are you hoping a stranger on the internet will tell you NOT to go to a neurologist when you've been to the emergency room twice and the qualified medical doctors who have examined you have recommended it? At the least, see your family physician! It is difficult for a trained physician examining you to tell whether any portion of your symptoms are psychosomatic or neurological, and silly to think that a reader can do so based on the usual toxicology of hydrochloric acid. But a strong "rotten egg smell" is indicative of sulfur dioxide rather than hydrochloric acid anyway. Good luck, but please see your doctor today.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 30, 2008

thumbsdown I inhaled pool chemicals by accident, early this morning. I couldn't breath and coughed-up a lot of phlegm. I drank a lot of milk, water, took a quick shower and laid down for about a hour. It makes you feel quite weak. My breathing is better now. Reading all your e-mail made me wonder if there is any damage. I'm off to the doctor right now.

Judi Lontos
- Germiston, Gauteng, South Africa

April 2, 2008

Q. Muriatic Acid Incident (Scared to Death). I read about a few folks putting muriatic acid in their swimming pools and breathing fumes later. I also had the same problem, but I got into the pool for a couple of hours. I was a little intoxicated since we had a few beers first. I started coughing and noticed that my skin had burns. A couple of days later, I went to the doctor because I thought I was coming down with pneumonia. I was admitted and released later, but I never got rid of the cough and chest irritation. I didn't mention the swimming pool incident to the doctor because I didn't think the symptom was related to something I may have done. Now, after two weeks, I am worried about lung damage. I think if I get another cold it could be fatal. Question; if I do have damage, is there a medicines to help? What does everyone think?

Monty Brownlee
retired, hobbyist - Philippines

May 20, 2008

Q. This is a subject hard for me to speak of. A cruel human being broke into my friend's house while we were sleeping in the living room. This woman kicked down the door and poured a gallon of hydrochloric (muriatic) acid into the house and another one all over my friend. We were in a very small place (350 square feet). I had never heard of this chemical before, I was wakened up by the strongest, most terrifying, smell.
My friend immediately jumped in the shower to rinse off and I ran outside gasping and hyperventilating in complete shock. After the "drama" of this wicked event, we stayed in this small house for about 4 days. My friend had cleaned up (I have no idea how) the acid mess. I kept making it known that I was very weak, I could barely move my body, and I couldn't breathe through my nose. It also did a number on me outside of the house. The smell of being outside, miles away, would make me gag and want to throw up and I had insane body pains. My skin turned yellow...
I have never been in so much HELL.
Months have passed, what kind of damage could I have had?
Do you think it is still there?

Lauren Madison
- Tampa Bay, Florida

May 20, 2008

A. Hi, Lauren. Unfortunately, to request a 2nd opinion from a stranger on the internet, with no medical experience, and no real understanding of your exposure, isn't going to work. If you are not satisfied with what you have learned from your visits to the doctor, you need to find a second doctor to examine you and offer his assessment. Good luck.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

September 4, 2009

Q. I am a crystal miner and we use muriatic acid to clean iron oxide off the crystals. I have a half face respirator that I use but I do sometimes get stung in my eyes and feel the sting on my skin from the vapors coming off of the acid. We must get pretty close to a large amount of the acid since we have to insert and remove trays of crystals directly from the vat of acid.

My question is.. what could the long term effects of this be? I really hate using the acid.. even with the acid gas respirator it still makes my nose water.

Mike Werner
Miner - Bismarck, Arizona

May 11, 2010

Q. What is the best test / diagnostic test to diagnose if there is a damage occurred on the lungs?

Abigail Ramirez
hobbyist - Philippines

August 3, 2010

Q. There was a gas fire set in my house. I put that fire out. The police arrested the arsonist.

At the same time there was a Hydrochloric acid fire set that no one knew about. I slept in the house the rest of the night.
8:00 am the house is full of fumes. I call 911 again. Hazmat-bomb squad show up. Fire department.EMT-unit.
I vomited white foam.
Now I'm having breathing problems?
Is there anything that can help?

Elisabeth Blount
Hobbyist-Researcher - Fort Worth,Texas

August 3, 2010

A. Hi, Elisabeth. Step 1 is to see a doctor immediately; your lungs are probably exceptionally infection-prone at this point. Step 2 is to start hanging around with a better class of people :-)

Please don't accept folk remedies from the internet after such a severe exposure.


Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey

January 23, 2011

Q. My son inhaled fumes in the lab 4 weeks ago. He was pouring out Hydrochloric acid and sulfuric acid when he inhaled fumes. He collapsed to the floor, coughed for 15 minutes, breathed heavily. He is still having problems breathing, dizzy, headache, pressure in his head, etc. I have taken him to doctors (twice to his primary and once to another). He has been on antibiotics (third time in 4 weeks). I am wondering if doctors are taking it as nothing....

Irfan Sheikh
student - Skokie, Illinois, USA

July 29, 2011

!! I recently was cleaning my concrete driveway with Muriatic Acid it ran into the street and reacted with the blacktop and the fumes made my skin sting and my breathing was slightly affected I turned the hose on myself and watered my face and rinsed out my mouth.
My surprise was the instant reaction with the asphalt.
Be aware ....

Andrew Rowlands
- Los Angeles California

December 6, 2011

A. It can be serious; you should encourage someone who has inhalation symptoms to seek medical attention. I accidentally breathed in muriatic acid while cleaning stone and had a serious cough for 3 weeks. I never saw a doctor but I did not have blue lips or fingers; it was definitely unpleasant and it hurt when I inhaled. I had pneumonia-like symptoms and for an older gentlemen this can be life threatening.

William Laper
- San Diego, California, USA

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