Student Research: Barry A. Stevens

, , 1991
Faculty Advisor: Jane Q. Koenig

Respiratory Effects in Young Adult Asthmatics from the Inhalation of Hydrogen Chloride


Hydrogen chloride (HCI) is a colorless nonflammable gas soluble in water. Its aqueous solution is known as muriatic acid or, more commonly, hydrochloric acid. It is characterized as a nonflammable gas by the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) and a hazardous substance by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Its commercial applications include use in industry, pharmaceutical manufacturing, vinyl chloride formation, rubber chlorination and organic synthesis. It is used in the production of fertilizers, dyes, artificial silk, and paint pigments as well as in ore refining, pertroleum extraction, pickling of metals, and the refining of edible oils and fats. Additionally, it is a combustion byproduct; i.e. it is emitted as a result of the burning process. In our society HCI is most pervalently produced in the burning of coal for power and during the incineration of plastics.

Hydrogen chloride is known to have some adverse health effects. High concentrations of HCI gas are highly corrosive to mucous membranes, producing burns, ulcerations and scarring. Eye contact can result in reduced vision or blindness. Dental discoloration and erosion of exposed incisors have occured upon prolonged low level exposures. There is scanty information on the short term respiratory effects of low concentrations.

It is noteworthy that almost no human data exists from the controlled study of low levels of hydrogen chloride. All review literature and professional conferences on the subject of acid gases consistenly speak to the need for scientific investigation on this matter. The specific aim of this project was to discern if selected nasal or pulmonary function effects exist, within a population most often sensitive to air pollution, from the inhalation of low levels of hydrogen chloride. To accomplish this, a reliable and accurate method for continuously monitoring HCI during subject exposure had to be designed and implemented as well.

Taken from the beginning of thesis.