Concrete is a caustic alkaline substance that can contain chromium, epoxies, crystalline silica and lime. "Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery," the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, reports that alkaline-based substances are responsible for 15,000 burns to the skin annually. Skin exposure to concrete causes allergic dermatitis, corrosive tissue damage and burns. The normal pH level of skin is 7. Concrete has pH levels of about 12. After concrete exposure it is imperative to restore skin pH levels to avoid permanent damage. Hydrotherapy and washing the hands with pH neutral soap and vinegar can reduce the severity of concrete exposure.
pH Neutral Soaps
Concrete exposure is possible even with the use of protective gloves. Concrete, in liquid or powder form, can penetrate the flesh around the gloves and work inside the glove. Lotions and soaps contain alkaline-substances that when combined with the alkaline of concrete combine together to further irritate and injure the flesh. The Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health recommends immediately washing hands with clean water and pH neutral soaps, either liquid cleansers or bar soaps. Worksites where concrete exposure is possible should maintain cleansers with pH neutral levels for first aid use. Soap labels will list the pH levels in the ingredients. Soaps intended for babies and soaps manufactured for patients suffering from dermatitis are sources of pH neutral soaps. Never use soap on concrete-affected hands or flesh without knowing the pH level as the soap could cause further caustic burns and injuries.
Concrete is extremely caustic to flesh. Hydrotherapy, which is the continuous irrigation of the flesh with water, is essential to reduce the severity of the potential injury caused by exposure to concrete. After the initial contact with concrete, the American Concrete Pumping Association says what you do immediately after is most important. Alkaline substances will lead to burns. The first thing that you should wash your hands with is clean, cool water. If there are no available pH neutral cleansers available, the hands should be flushed with water for at least an hour. Emedicine website maintains that even with a full hour of water irrigation, the pH level of skin won't return to normal levels for about 12 hours.
After the use of pH neutral soap or hydrotherapy the only other proven cleanser to counter injurious effects of concrete to flesh is common household vinegar. The American Concrete Pumping Association maintains that applying household vinegar to the exposed flesh, after the hands have been washed with clean water, will help neutralize the alkaline in concrete about 15 minutes quicker than if you washed your hands with just water. The best course of action for washing hands exposed to concrete, according to the Electronic Library of Construction Occupational Safety and Health, is to wash your hands with clean water and a pH neutral cleanser and then rinse your hands with vinegar and water.