Limescale deposits are caused by small amounts of naturally occurring minerals in both fresh and saltwater. These minerals form deposits over time especially when heat is also present. Limescale deposit is particularly common in machinery and equipment that involves heating elements and heat transfer elements.
Removing limescale build-up is necessary to keep water-operated machinery running efficiently and to prevent equipment failure. Harsh acids such as hydrochloric acid and sulphamic acid, are commonly used as chemical descalers in the workplace.
These acids are corrosive and dangerous, with the potential to cause devastating injuries to people. Disposing of harsh acids also creates environmental challenges that can be expensive and time consuming for businesses to resolve.
Hydrochloric acid has traditionally been used to remove limescale. It is classified as a Class 8 Dangerous Good with highly corrosive properties. The chemical is an extreme risk to anyone working with or exposed to it.
Concentrated contact with skin can cause severe burns, deep ulcers and skin discolouration. Highly diluted acid may cause skin redness, pain and dermatitis over time. Direct contact with eyes can result in redness, stinging, loss of vision or irreversible blindness. Swallowing hydrochloric acid may be fatal.
Hydrochloric acid releases a toxic vapour which can cause coughing, choking, chest pain, irritation to the respiratory tract, pulmonary edema, circulatory failure and death. Vapours can also irritate and cause damage to eyes.
Long term exposure
Long term exposure to concentrated vapours may discolour and erode teeth. Ongoing occupational exposure to hydrochloric acid has been linked to gastritis, chronic bronchitis, dermatitis and photosensitising. Breathing in the fumes may also cause hyperplasia of the nasal mucosa, larynx and trachea as well as lesions in the nasal cavity.
Sulphamic (sulfamic) acid is also used for industrial descaling. It is less volatile, corrosive and irritating than hydrochloric acid. This makes it a common – though more expensive – replacement for harsher acids. However, sulphamic acid used for industrial descaling presents its own problems.
Health and safety risks
While less corrosive than hydrochloric acid, sulphamic acid can still cause significant burning if it comes into direct contact with skin and eyes. The acid releases a vapour that is irritating to the respiratory system and eyes. Long term exposure can result in skin irritations and sensitisation.
Dangerous to aquatic life
Sulphamic acid is very toxic to aquatic organisms such as fish. Because it can cause long term adverse effects in aquatic environments, sulphamic acid should not be released into waterways. This creates significant waste management issues.
Waste disposal costs
Sulphamic acid should not be disposed of down drains, including the rinse water. This means time-consuming waste management processes and expensive waste removal costs. Even empty containers that are not totally clean must be specially disposed of.
Phosphoric acid is also used for industrial descaling. It is corrosive to ferrous metals and alloys. Phosphoric acid usage comes with risks.
Phosphoric acid is less corrosive than other acids traditionally used for industrial descaling. However, it can still cause severe skin burns. It is also an irritant or corrosive to the eyes and other mucous membranes of both humans and laboratory animals. While phosphoric acid is not carcinogenic, it is known that phosphate salts promote the activity of known carcinogens. Inhalation of the acid can irritate the nose, throat and lungs, causing coughing and wheezing.
Effects of Long Term Exposure
Long-term exposure to phosphoric acid in liquid form may cause drying and cracking of the skin. Repeated exposure through inhalation may cause bronchitis to develop with cough, phlegm, and/or shortness of breath.
Triple7’s descaling range
Triple7’s range of high-tech chemical descalers are totally free of both hydrochloric acid and sulphamic acid.
Natural acids combined with non-toxic surfactants effectively remove scale build. The range is both Worksafe and eco-friendly to protect people and the environment.
Protect worker safety
No toxic and harmful chemicals means no risk of workplace accidents such as chemical burns, irritation and respiratory problems.
The non toxic formulation means significantly reduced PPE, ventilation requirements and other safety controls. Waste product and rinse water can be safely disposed off down the drain subject to local controls.
Protect aquatic environments
A safe alternative for marine and other sensitive natural environments.
Powerful de-scaling action without harsh acids. The low corrosion formulation will not damage metals and other surface materials.
Triple7’s descaling range has no Hazchem rating so there is no need for special handling transport, storage or disposal requirements.