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breathing battery acid fumes
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breathing battery acid fumes

I drive a semi and recently have had a problem with my battery and alternater.  I have smelled fumes and had my skin feel like it is burning.  Trouble breathing, diahrea, upset stomach and sore throat.  Would  breathing the fumes from battries cause these symptoms and how can I get information on this problem?  I have asthma already so this does not help any.
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Dear Navy Dad,

Even without having asthma, inhaling fumes from a battery can be extremely dangerous and harmful to your lungs and respiratory tract.

When batteries get wet or damp, sulfuric acid may be present in the air as small droplets or attached to other small airborne particulates (for example, dust). Sulfuric acid is extremely irritating to skin, mucous membranes (eyes, inside of the nose, throat), and to the upper airway (trachea) and to the lungs. If you inhaled either droplets or particulates with droplets attached, you could experience symptoms such as difficulty breathing, coughing, sore throat, and worsening of the typical symptoms you have with your asthma (wheezing).

Inhalation of sulfuric acid droplets can cause a chemical pneumonitis (inflammation in the lungs). If you have chemical pneumonitis, your lungs may not be able to clear other particles that you may inhale and you may be at higher risk for developing pneumonia. In addition, the sulfuric acid is irritating to the gastrointestinal tract and could cause nausea, diarrhea, and stomach pain.

Lastly, where can you get information on this problem?

You can perform a google search and use “battery acid fumes” and “MSDS” as search terms. MSDS = Material Safety Data Sheet.

Here is a link as well:

I would recommend that you see your personal physician (if you are self-employed) or the health care providers who provide Occupational Health for the company that you work for regarding this potential exposure. Early treatment and management of your symptoms may be important in minimizing any potential long-term consequences.


~ Dr. Parks

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. The information presented in this posting is for patients’ education only. As always, I encourage you to see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.
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