Portland cement is a light gray or white powder. When in contact with moisture in eyes or on skin, or when mixed with water, portland cement becomes highly caustic (pH > 12) and will damage or burn (as severely as third-degree) the eyes or skin.
(Acute) Exposure to dry portland cement may cause drying of the skin with consequent mild irritation or more significant effects attributable to aggravation of other conditions.
(Chronic) Dry portland cement coming in contact with wet skin or exposure to wet portland cement may cause more severe skin effects, including thickening, cracking or fissuring of the skin. Prolonged exposure can cause severe skin damage in the form of chemical (caustic) burns.
METHODS OF PROTECTION - Prevention is essential to avoiding potentially severe skin injury. Avoid contact with unhardened (wet) portland cement products. If contact occurs, promptly wash affected area with soap and water. Do not rely on barrier creams; barrier creams should not be used in place of gloves. Use impervious, abrasion- and alkali-resistant gloves, boots and protective clothing to protect the skin from prolonged contact with wet portland cement in plastic concrete, mortar or slurries. Provisions must be made to enable employees to clean or exchange equipment if it becomes ineffective or contaminated on the inside with portland cement while in use and to ensure that equipment is maintained in a sanitary and reliable condition when not in use.
FIRST AID - Wash skin with cool water and pH-neutral soap or a mild detergent. Seek medical treatment if irritation or inflammation develops or persists. Seek immediate medical treatment in the event of burns.
GOOD PRACTICES FOR SKIN CARE
- Wash areas of the skin that come into contact with wet cement in clean, cool water. Use a pH-neutral or slightly acidic soap. Check with the soap supplier or manufacturer for information on the acidity and alkalinity of the soap.
- Consider using a mildly acidic solution such as diluted vinegar or a buffering solution to neutralize caustic residues of cement on the skin3.
- Do not wash with abrasives or waterless hand cleaners, such as alcohol-based gels or citrus cleaners.
- Avoid wearing watches and rings at work since wet cement can collect under such items.
Do not use lanolin, petroleum jelly, or other skin softening products. These substances can seal cement residue to the skin, increase the skin's ability to absorb contaminants, and irritate the skin. Skin softening products also should not be used to treat cement burns.
SAFETY REMINDER - DISCOMFORT OR PAIN CANNOT BE RELIED UPON TO ALERT A PERSON TO A HAZARDOUS SKIN EXPOSURE.