Safety advice for chemical splashes questioned

Study suggests safety data stating water should be used on eyes for chemical splashes is misleading

A study comparing active and passive washing solutions has shown Diphoterine to be more effective than water in treating chemical splashes to the eye.

The study, carried out by Prevor Laboratory, The University of Colorado and the Service of Medical Translation and Toxicological Consulting in Wyoming, used 95% sulphuric acid to show that 500ml of Diphoterine quickly brings a corrosive chemical to a physiologically acceptable level in contrast to 500ml of water which has a lesser effect.

The research raises concerns about whether the UK’s Material Safety Data Sheet information should be reviewed to bring it into line with European Standards, which acknowledge the use of active washing solutions such as Diphoterine.

Currently MSDS only state that water should be used to wash the eye if an unexpected splash occurs – information that Kay Medical says could mean workers are not receiving the most effective treatments.

Diphoterine stops the aggressive action of six chemical families: acids, bases (alkaline), oxidizers, solvents, reducing agents and chelating agents. Being hypertonic, it has a very high surface tension compared to both the skin and the eye so the fluid in the skin and eye is attracted to its higher osmotic pressure and so creates a flow away from the tissue. By contrast water is hypotonic and has a very low surface tension compared to both the skin and the eye. It is attracted to the higher osmotic pressure in the skin and eye and so creates a flow into the tissue.

A large number of companies across a wide variety of sectors have already experienced improvements to their emergency decontamination procedures by moving from passive washing solutions to active washing solutions. However, some feel restricted by current MSDS information.

David King, sales and marketing manager at Kays, exclusive distributor of Diphoterine in Great Britain said: ‘Where companies have made the switch from water to the active washing solution Diphoterine we have seen impressive reductions in the requirement for secondary care and in-patient convalescence periods. Kays would welcome a broadening of MSDS regulations so that employers are notified of alternative, more effective, solutions to water for treating workers splashed with chemicals and can make an informed choice as to the most effective solution to meet their requirements.’