Hydrofluoric Acid – The Flesh Eater

Last week’s blog was about an interesting acid that’s corrosive enough to destroy DNA evidence. A whimsical Facebook post—as a joke—by one of my friends regarding “how to get rid of the body in the basement” made me think of another dangerous chemical—another acid—that I’d like to discuss today.

Hydrofluoric acid is a colorless liquid that mixes readily in other fluids. It’s highly Hydrofluoriccaustic and is classified as an acute poison that immediately begins to degrade tissue on contact. Although literature states that hydrofluoric acid probably isn’t strong enough to completely destroy DNA, it will eat away human flesh and most likely damage DNA beyond current identification standards.

If you were a fan of the Breaking Bad TV series, you might remember that this was the acid that Jesse Pinkman used to dissolve a body in his bathtub, the tub that eventually was dissolved by this acid and came crashing through the ceiling.

Ironically, when hydrofluoric acid comes into contact with skin, it initially causes painless burns. Several hours after exposure, however—even after washing the skin—deep, irreversible and painful damage can result and tissue death follows shortly after.

But the damage doesn’t stop at the skin’s surface. After contact, the acid interrupts the body’s calcium metabolism and causes systemic toxicity. As the body’s calcium balance is further disturbed, systemic calcium metabolism is halted. This can lead to cardiac arrest and death. And it doesn’t take much to create this cascading lethal effect. As little as 25 square inches (a 5”x5” area) of affected skin can lead to death.

For example, a drink laden with hydrofluoric acid spilled on someone’s clothing could beMH900425314 considered accidental and easily forgotten. But over a period of a few hours, the person’s skin would begin to dissolve, calcium metabolism would be disrupted and the person could die from a heart attack.

It’s easy to see how this acid could be an intriguing method of killing off a character in your novel and still not have it link back to the murderer since visible damage may not appear until hours after exposure.

As one might expect, the degree of tissue damage and the resulting lethal effects of this acid depend on the amount used, the route of administration, and the length of exposure time.

CB011723For instance, if this acid were added to someone’s eye drops or a nasal spray, the systemic damage would be accelerated due to the greater absorption rate of the acid into ocular tissue and mucous membranes.

If used as a nasal spray, lung tissue damage is assured. Lung tissue swelling and fluid accumulation could cause an irreversible pulmonary edema and the victim would essentially drown in his or her own fluids—thereby allowing a writer to create a rather dramatic murder scene.

Swallowing a small amount of highly concentrated hydrofluoric acid will cause major organ damage and, more often than not, result in a painful death.

Furthermore, if the person suspects that he or she has been poisoned and vomiting is induced, then tissue damage is enhanced throughout the upper GI tract. This results in even greater absorption of the chemical into mucosal tissue and a more effective shutdown of systemic calcium metabolism. In short, the end result of induced vomiting is a more rapid advancement to cardiac arrest.

One of the reasons this poison would make such a great murder weapon is12942198-auto-parts--automotive-engine-clutch-isolated-on-white-with-clipping-path that hydrofluoric acid is readily available in auto parts stores. It’s one of the main ingredients in aluminum wheel cleaners.

Hydrofluoric acid has been used for centuries to etch patterns into glass and ceramics as well as to extract chemicals from rocks. In more recent times, the acid is used to prepare wafers that become silicon chips in electronic devices.

I have not yet had the chance to use this interesting chemical as a murder weapon in one of my novels, but the possibilities are intriguing and as numerous as the routes of administration for this versatile poison.

Thoughts? Comments? I’d love to hear them



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About James J. Murray, Fiction Writer

With experience in both pharmaceutical manufacturing and clinical patient management, medications and their impact on one’s quality of life have been my expertise. My secret passion of murder and mayhem, however, is a whole other matter. I’ve always loved reading murder mysteries and thrillers, and longed to weave such tales of my own. Drawing on my clinical expertise as a pharmacist and my infatuation with the lethal effects of drugs, my tales of murder, mayhem and medicine will have you looking over your shoulder and suspicious of anything in your medicine cabinet.
This entry was posted in A How To Blog on Murder Plot Ideas, A How To Blog on Murder Weapons, About James J. Murray, About Murder, About Writing, All About Murder, Blog Writers, Blogging, Bloodless Death Scene Writing, Bloodless Death Scenes, Breaking Bad Acids, Breaking Bad Poisons, Chemical Poisons, Chemicals Used For Murder, Difficult to Solve Murders, Dramatic Murder Weapons, Flesh Eating Acids, How To Write A BloodLess Murder Scene, Hydrofluoric Acid, Hydrofluoric Acid and Murder, Ideas for Murder Scenes, Interesting Murder Weapons, James J. Murray Blog, Killing a Villain in a Novel, Killing Off Characters in Your Novel, Lethal Chemical Poisons, Murder Mayhem and Medicine, Murder Weapons, New Blog, New Methods of Murder, Plotting Interesting Murder Scenes, The Science of Murder, Tools of Murder, Unique Murder Weapons, Ways to Murder, Writing Dramatic Murder Scenes and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Hydrofluoric Acid – The Flesh Eater

  1. Vicky says:

    I have known people who have used HF in their work, nasty stuff. Very easy to get burned.

  2. Mighty scary. Are you absolutely sure law enforcement agencies aren’t stalking you and your computer? I’d be looking over my shoulder. Meanwhile, your blogs are becoming a priceless library for all of us murder mystery writers lucky enough to know where to find you… for now! 😉

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