Benzoic acid, also known as benzoate or E210, is a colourless organic crystalline solid. It has a faint but pleasant odour and is soluble in water. It is naturally occurring in cranberries, prunes, strawberries, apples as well as other plants.
Benzoic acid is used across various applications in a range of industries. It is commonly used as a preservative in food and drink as well as being used in the production of plastics, dyes, insect repellents and various other cosmetics.
Chronic exposure to benzoic acid is toxic to multiple body systems; including the integumentary (hair, skin and nails) and respiratory systems. Long term exposure to the acid can result in disease of the airway, including difficulty breathing. Symptoms can be triggered by environmental factors such as smoke, perfume, and exhaust.
Routes of exposure include inhalation and skin/eye contact.
Inhalation of the acid may result in irritation of the respiratory tract, resulting in coughing, red itching eyes, runny nose and eyes and a sore throat. For those who already have impaired respiratory functions, inhaling this acid may cause further damage.
Skin contact could result in dermatitis, characterised by swelling and redness. The acid could also cause systemic injury if it gets into the bloodstream. Eye contact could result in ocular lesions.
While Benzoic Acid is a common food preservative, if ingested at excessive levels, it will be toxic (possibly fatal) to the human body and vomiting should not be induced and a medical professional should be alerted.
In the event of exposure to skin; remove all contaminated clothing, footwear and accessories and cleanse the affected area with plenty of soap and water. Contaminated clothing must be washed prior to wearing again. Burns can occur depending on the severity of the exposure.
If Benzoic Acid gets into a person’s eyes, flush them with water for 15 minutes, making sure you do not forget to wash under the eyelids. Contact a medical professional.
Safety showers and emergency eyewash fountains should be accessible in the immediate area of the potential exposure to the chemical.
Ensure there is adequate ventilation and use Benzoic Acid with local exhaust ventilation.
Wear proper PPE, such as safety glasses with side shields, a solvent-protective apron and solvent-protective gloves.
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