Sulfuric acid (H2S04) is a corrosive substance, destructive to the skin, eyes, teeth, and lungs. Severe exposure can result in death. Workers may be harmed from exposure to sulfuric acid. The level of exposure depends on dose, duration, and type of work being done.
Sulfuric acid is used in many industries. It’s used to produce other chemicals, explosives and glue; to refine petroleum; to cure metal; and in lead-based car batteries. Some examples of workers at risk of being exposed to sulfuric acid include the following:
- Outdoor workers who work in areas where coal, oil, or gas are burned
- Mechanics who handle dirty batteries
- Plumbers and contractors who come in contact with toilet bowl cleaners mixed with water
- Workers in publishing, printing or photography shops
- Fire fighters and steelworkers who are exposed to acid mists
NIOSH recommends that employers use the Hierarchy of Controls to prevent or reduce worker exposures. If you work in an industry that uses sulfuric acid, read chemical labels and the accompanying Safety Data Sheet for hazard information. Visit NIOSH’s page on Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace to learn more about controlling chemical workplace exposures.
The following resources provide information about occupational exposure to sulfuric acid. Useful search terms for sulfuric acid include “battery acid,” “hydrogen sulfate,” “oil of vitriol,” and “sulfuric acid (aqueous).”
NIOSH Chemical Resources
The NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (NPG) helps workers, employers, and occupational health professionals recognize and control workplace chemical hazards.
The NIOSH Manual of Analytical Methods (NMAM) is a collection of methods for sampling and analysis of contaminants in workplace air, and in the blood and urine of workers who are occupationally exposed.
Related NIOSH Resources
- NIOSHTIC2 Search results for sulfuric acid – NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable database of worker safety and health publications, documents, grant reports, and journal articles supported in whole or in part by NIOSH.
- Documentation for Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health Concentrations (IDLH) – The IDLH documents the criteria and information sources that have been used by NIOSH to determine immediately dangerous to life or health concentrations.
- NIOSH: Managing Chemical Safety in the Workplace – The NIOSH Chemical directory provides a centralized resource for guided access to the Institute’s many significant research documents.
- Criteria for a Recommended Standard: Occupational Exposure to Sulfuric Acid, DHHS (NIOSH) Publication No. 74-128 (1974) – Presents a standard to prevent the adverse effects of exposure to sulfuric acid over a working lifetime.
- Worker Notification Program: Acid mists – NIOSH conducts research to prevent illnesses and injuries in the workplace. The NIOSH Worker Notification Program notifies workers and other stakeholders about the findings of these research studies.
- Review and Evaluation of Recent Literature: Occupational Exposure to Sulfuric Acid[PDF – 3.78 MB] – Information on the effects of sulfuric-acid (7664939) exposure is presented.
- NIOSH/OSHA Occupational Health Guideline for Sulfuric Acidpdf icon – Guideline intended for employees, employers, physicians, industrial hygienists, and other occupational health professionals who may have a need for such information.
- ATSDR Toxicological Profile for Sulfuric Acid
- ATSDR ToxFAQs for Sulfuric Acid
- OSHA Chemical Sampling Information: Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- OSHA Hazard Communicationexternal icon
- EPA Acute Exposure Guideline Levels (AEGLs): Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- EPA Chemistry Dashboard: Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- IPCS INCHEM: Sulfuric acid search resultsexternal icon
- NLM Hazardous Substance Data Bank: Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- NLM Haz-Map: Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- NLM Medline Plus: Sulfuric Acid Poisoningexternal icon
- NTP Report on Carcinogens (Fourteenth Edition): Sulfuric Acidpdf iconexternal icon
- New Jersey Hazardous Substance Fact Sheets: Sulfuric Acidpdf iconexternal icon
- Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) Chemical Profiles: Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- European Chemical Agency (ECHA): Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- Gestis Substance Database: Sulfuric Acidexternal icon
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph 100F (2012): Mists from strong inorganic acidspdf iconexternal icon
- International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) Monograph 54 (1992): Sulfuric Acidpdf iconexternal icon
- OECD Global Portal to Information on Chemical Substances: Sulfuric acid search resultsexternal icon
- United Nations Environmental Programme (OECD SIDS): Sulfuric Acidpdf iconexternal icon
- International Chemical Safety Cards: SULFURIC ACIDexternal icon