Study objective: The purpose of this study was to provide the first description of the effects of ingestion of low-concentration hydrofluoric acid in a population reported to a regional poison control center. Methods: A retrospective analysis of data collected by trained personnel using a standardized data collection system was performed. All charts involving hydrofluoric acid exposures for a 2-year period from a certified regional poison control center were identified by a computerized search. Each chart was abstracted by trained and blinded personnel. Results: There were 1,772 exposures to hydrofluoric acid; 135 involved ingestion. There were 99 cases of human hydrofluoric acid ingestion for analysis. All ingestions involved consumer products containing 6% to 8% hydrofluoric acid. Symptoms, most commonly mild gastrointestinal effects, were reported by 49 patients. Two patients with minimal effects during an observation period of 2 to 4 hours deteriorated suddenly and died. All other patients recovered completely. Of 29 cases in which calcium concentrations were recorded, 4 cases of hypocalcemia occurred. All patients who had major effects or died were adults who had ingested more than 3 ounces of hydrofluoric acid with suicidal intent. Death occurred precipitously in patients who had appeared well a few minutes earlier. Conclusion: Death occurred in 2 patients, both of whom were adults who had ingested more than 3 ounces with suicidal intent. Ingestion of a household product containing hydrofluoric acid is a potentially life- threatening condition that requires close monitoring and prompt therapy. The abrupt deterioration and lack of warning signs indicate the need for better diagnostic methods.
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