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.
The pH scale is logarithmic. That means each change of one in pH value is 10 times more acidic. Therefore, a substance with a pH of 2 is 1000 times more acidic than one with a pH of 5!
The pH values of some common substances are given in the table below.
It is important to know the pH of substances because they may be corrosive or react with incompatible materials. For example acids and bases should not be stored or used near each other as their accidental combination could generate a huge amount of heat and energy, possibly resulting in an explosion.
pH is also important to know in case you spill the material on your skin or eyes. Whenever a substance enters the eye, flush with water for 15 minutes and get prompt medical attention.
(Acute/Chronic) Exposure to airborne dust may cause immediate or delayed irritation or inflammation of the cornea. Eye contact by larger amounts of dry powder or splashes of wet portland cement may cause effects ranging from moderate eye irritation to chemical burns and blindness.
METHODS OF PROTECTION - When engaged in activities where portland cement dust or wet portland cement or concrete could contact the eye, wear goggles or safety glasses with side-shields. In extremely dusty environments and unpredictable environments, wear unvented or indirectly vented goggles to avoid eye irritation or injury. Contact lenses should not be worn when working with portland cement or wet portland cement products.
FIRST AID - Immediately flush eye thoroughly with water. Continue flushing eye for at least 15 minutes, including under lids, to remove all particles. Call physician immediately.
SAFETY REMINDER - BASIC MATERIALS TEND TO CAUSE WORSE EYE DAMAGE AND ARE HARDER TO FLUSH OUT OF THE EYE TISSUES THAN ACIDIC MATERIALS.