What Are the Dangers of Potassium Hydroxide?

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Potassium hydroxide, which is also known as potassium lye or caustic potash, is a chemical that is used to manufacture certain types of soap, a chemical used as an ingredient in drain cleaners, and a chemical used to remove fur from an animal’s hide during the leather tanning process. Potassium hydroxide is a strong base, however, and there are a number of dangers associated with its use.

Chemical Reaction

A chemical reaction in which an explosive or corrosive gas is released may occur if potassium hydroxide comes into contact with an acid, an ammonium salt or moist air.

Eye Contact

Potassium hydroxide is corrosive and it may cause burns, severe irritation, severe pain, swelling, impaired vision and/or eventually blindness if it comes into contact with an individual’s eyes.

Ingestion

Potassium hydroxide is not only corrosive, but also extremely toxic so it may cause burns, diarrhea, vomiting, severe stomach pain, shock and/or death if it is ingested.

Inhalation

Since potassium hydroxide is corrosive, it may cause an individual to cough, sneeze, develop breathing problems and/or damage the individual’s lungs if it is inhaled--the amount of damage depends on the amount of exposure.

Skin Contact

An individual may develop blisters, burns, severe pain and/or permanent scars if the skin comes into contact with potassium hydroxide.

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