Huntington Beach, California, August 24, 2023
Sodium hydroxide (NaOH), commonly referred to as lye or caustic soda, is an inorganic chemical compound manufactured for use in a number of industries. It is described by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) as being caustic and having no smell.
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) reports that sodium hydroxide is used to manufacture soaps, rayon, paper, explosives, dyestuffs and petroleum products. It is also used in processing cotton fabric, laundering and bleaching, metal cleaning and processing, oxide coating, electroplating and electrolytic extracting. Sodium hydroxide is even commonly found in commercial drain and oven cleaners.
Examples of some of the workers potentially at risk of being exposed to sodium hydroxide according to NIOSH include those who:
- Use bleach, oven cleaners and drain cleaners
- Work in food processing plants
- Work in public water treatment plants
- Use sodium hydroxide for making paper, glass, detergents, soaps and other products
- Mine alumina and produce aluminum
Workers can be harmed by exposure to sodium hydroxide in a number of ways. These include severe burns to tissue from contact and spontaneous vomiting, chest and abdominal pain, and difficulty swallowing from ingestion according to ATSDR. The agency also states that inhalation of low levels of sodium hydroxide as dusts, mists or aerosols may cause irritation of the nose, throat and respiratory airways. Inhalation of higher levels can produce swelling or spasms of the upper airway leading to obstruction and loss of measurable pulse; inflammation of the lungs and an accumulation of fluid in the lungs may also occur. Long-term exposure to sodium hydroxide in the air may lead to ulceration of the nasal passages and chronic skin irritation.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) and NIOSH has a Recommended Exposure Limit (REL) to protect workers from exposure to sodium hydroxide,” said Michael Chapman, Laboratory Manager at LA Testing’s Huntington Beach facility. “At LA Testing, our industrial hygiene laboratories help companies detect and monitor for exposure risks associated with sodium hydroxide and many other chemical hazards. We also provide sampling supplies and personal protective equipment.”
LA Testing recently sponsored an educational video about sodium hydroxide and potential occupational exposure risks that can be seen at: https://youtu.be/dHRxu0VR3EY
To learn more about this or other industrial hygiene, environmental, health and safety testing resources, please visit www.LATesting.com, email info@LATesting.com or call (800) 755-1794.
About LA Testing
LA Testing is California’s leading laboratory for environmental, indoor air quality and material testing for mercury, asbestos, mold, bacteria, lead, VOCs, formaldehyde, soot, char, ash and smoke damage, particulates, and other chemicals. In addition, LA Testing offers a full range of air sampling and investigative equipment to professionals and the general public. LA Testing maintains an extensive list of accreditations including: AIHA LAP LLC., AIHA ELLAP, AIHA EMLAP and AIHA IHLAP, CDC Elite, NVLAP, State of California, State of Hawaii Department of Health, and other states. LA Testing, along with the EMSL Analytical, Inc. network, has multiple laboratories throughout California including South Pasadena, Huntington Beach, San Leandro, and San Diego.