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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

What Is It?

Eyes can be damaged by solid, liquid, powder or aerosol chemicals. Chemical injuries that happen in the home are most likely to be caused by soaps, disinfectants, solvents, cosmetics, drain cleaners, oven cleaners, ammonia and bleach. In agricultural settings, fertilizers or pesticides can cause eye damage. In industry, many irritating chemicals and solvents can injure the eye.

A chemical eye injury is an emergency. Damage can occur within one to five minutes. Most of the time, however, chemicals that come in contact with the eye cause only surface damage and no loss of vision. Caustic (alkaline) chemicals cause the worst damage. These include ammonia, drain cleaners, automatic dish washing detergents and oven cleaners.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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