Despite decades-old warnings about the potential for mass casualties, 50 refineries across the nation still rely on a toxic chemcial known as hydrofluoric acid, or HF. At least 16 million Americans, many of them unaware of the threat, live in the potential path of HF if it were to be released in an accident or a terrorist attack, according to refinery owners’ worst case scenario reports.
Known for its ability to race long distances in a cloud, HF is extremely toxic. It causes lung congestion, inflammation and severe burns of the skin and digestive tract. It attacks the eyes and bones. Experiments in 1986 detected the acid at potentially deadly levels almost two miles from the point of release.