The acid found in automotive batteries e.g. Car Batteries and Leisure Batteries is a mixture of Sulphuric Acid and Water. The ratios of acid to water are generally between 30% acid to 50% acid.
Prolonged contact with sulphuric acid or dilute sulphuric acid will cause burns to skin, eyes and if ingested will irritate the lungs, mouth and throat. This article concerns itself with the necessary first aid required if you come into contact with battery acid.
The reason that prolonged contact with battery acid causes burning of the skin is because it acts as an astringent and draws the water content from the skin. When battery acid comes into contact with metals and other materials it causes a chemical reaction and begins to degrade them.
Take the following steps if your skin has come into contact with battery acid :
1) Rinse the affected area under COLD running water for 10 to 15 minutes. This will dilute and eventually wash off the acid before it draws moisture from your skin.
NEVER use HOT WATER. The reason for this is because it causes the pores in the skin to open up which may trap the acid when the pores close. Skin will sweat when hot which will further dehydrate it. Additionally, hot water will aggravate any damaged skin, even if the burn is very minor.
2) If you have come into contact with a lot of acid and you can feel it burning, follow the same as step (1) and seek immediate medical advice.
Take the following steps if you have ingested battery acid :
1) Call the emergency services immediately.
2) Swill your mouth out with cold water and continue to do so until help arrives. If you have swallowed any then continue to sip cold water and continue to do so until help arrives.
DO NOT drink warm water, or water that has anything added (e.g. cordial, tea etc) as the ingredients may react with the acid.