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What Really Happens to Your Body When You Fall Into a Vat of Acid

Updated September 23, 2021 203k views12 items

What happens when you fall into acid? A lot of things, actually. Depending on the type of acid, how much it’s diluted, and if you decide to be a real goof and start swallowing it, an assortment of nightmares await you. In film and television, one of the surefire ways to kill someone, get rid of their body, or turn them into a Batman villain is by tossing them into a vat of acid. But in real life the effects are rarely as quick or as visually appealing as they are in cinema. The actual act of falling into a vat of acid can cause long-term chronic pain, calcium loss (something you worry about as you get older), and death.

Falling into a vat of acid never seemed like fun, but movies do make it look kind of romantic. It turns out that acid is one of the least romantic and most unforgiving substances known to man. It eats away at everything people are made of, and because it has a hostile reaction to water, it’s essentially made to make people feel pain. As you’ll soon find out, acid destroys your body in myriad gross ways that will make you avoid the science lab for the rest of your life and have you rethinking every glass of water that you didn’t pour for yourself. Keep reading to find out what really happens when you fall into a vat of acid.

  • Your Body Will Be Covered with Chemical Burns After Just a Few Seconds

    When construction worker Rob Nuckols jumped 40 feet through a dilapidated roof into a vat of acid used to clean steel to save a co-worker, he got first hand-hand knowledge of how your body reacts to acid. The tank contained a 40- to 70- percent nitric acid solution, and after Nuckols was pulled out of the acid, he was bright red and suffering burns on his legs and abdomen. And that's just from less than a minute of full-body contact with the acid. 

  • Your Body Can Dissolve Completely

    After falling into an acidic hot spring at Yellowstone National Park in 2016, Colin Nathaniel Scott's body completely dissolved. Scott and his sister were visiting the park when he slipped and fell into a hot spring in the Norris Geyser Basin. His sister called the accident in to forest rangers, but they refrained from trying to go into the spring to rescue him because of the "extreme nature and futility of it all." It wasn't just the high acidity of the water that kept the rangers from trying to find what was left of Scott's body, it was also the extreme heat - those two things together are a perfect recipe for making a body disappear. 

  • After Enough Time, Even Your Teeth Will Dissolve

    In a study to determine which kinds of acid are most likely to be used to dissolve a body after a crime, the Department of Oral and Maxillofacial Pathology in Karnataka, India, submerged teeth into various types of acid.

    The gang at the DoEaMP submerged teeth in 25 ml of hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, and nitric acid, and as it turns out, after removing the teeth from each solution of acid, it was possible to determine how long each tooth had been immersed in the solution, unless the tooth was dropped into 65% nitric acid, or 37% hydrochloric acid. In those cases, the tooth was entirely dissolve after 15 hours. 

  • Acid Reacts with Water to Shrivel and Shrink Your Skin

    Obviously the last thing you want to do is get acid of any kind on your skin, especially any kind of concentrated acid. Concentrated acid heats up any amount of water that it's mixed with, meaning that if you get hit with acid, the 60% of your body that's made up of water is immediately burned. Your skin, on the other hand, shrivels and swells into tight clumps. It only takes seconds after the attack for the skin to swell, contract, and to shrink up to about the half the size of what it normally is.

    If you do get acid on your skin, you need to wash it off with as much water as possible: the less you use, the less the acid is diluted, and the more it burns.