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car wash operations, employee relations

Public Service Announcement: That Car Wash Chemical You’re Using Could Be Hazardous

(Image: WCAX)

(Image: WCAX)

U.S. officials are warning that a popular chemical used at car washes to brighten aluminum and break down grime could be dangerous to employees.

A report by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows hydrofluoric acid caused one death and 48 injuries over a 12-year period in the state of Washington. The injuries mainly consisted of burns when workers came in contact with the chemical. In the case of the 38-year-old man who died, researchers were not sure whether the chemical had been ingested intentionally.

“Hydrofluoric acid is insidiously toxic at the low concentrations used in vehicle washing,” Carolyn Whitaker, one of the researchers, said in a news release. “Initially, when it touches the skin there may be little or no pain. That means workers are often unaware of the burn until later and typically delay getting treatment.”

The report, released last Friday, showed that workers who were injured usually suffered burns to their face or hands either because they were not wearing gloves or because their gloves had tears. In the most serious cases, workers needed hospitalization and skin grafts.

For more information about the chemical and what researchers found, read the entire report.

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