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Toxicological information

Basic toxicokinetics

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Administrative data

basic toxicokinetics, other
Type of information:
other: evidence from degradation product
Adequacy of study:
weight of evidence
2 (reliable with restrictions)
Rationale for reliability incl. deficiencies:
data from handbook or collection of data

Data source

European Union Risk Assessment Report - hydrogen fluoride
Bibliographic source:
Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, 2001

Materials and methods

Objective of study:
bioaccessibility (or bioavailability)
Test guideline
no guideline required
GLP compliance:
not specified

Test material

Constituent 1
Chemical structure
Reference substance name:
Hydrogen fluoride
EC Number:
EC Name:
Hydrogen fluoride
Cas Number:
Molecular formula:

Results and discussion

Toxicokinetic / pharmacokinetic studies

Details on absorption:

Experiments in which rats were head-only exposed to HF gas, demonstrated that over 99% of the inhaled HF does not reach the lungs but is rapidly absorbed via the lining of the upper respiratory tract. A linear relationship was observed between the HF concentration to which the rats were exposed and the plasma fluoride level. The virtually complete absorption of HF in the upper airways was determined in an experiment in which HF contents of the inhaled air was analyzed via an endotracheal tube (Morris, Smith 1982). Inhalatory uptake of fluoride has also been observed in humans and rabbits (Dinman 1976; Kirk-Othmer 1980; Largent 1960). For instance, human volunteers who breathed 1.16 to 3.9 mg HF/m3 for period of 15 to 30 days excreted F- in their urine in average daily amounts of 3.44 to 19.9 mg over the entire period of exposure. Lund et al. exposed human volunteers for 1 hour to constant concentrations of HF, ranging from 0.2 to
5.2 mg HF/m3. From 0.7 mg/m3 upwards, a linear relationship between exposure and increase in plasma fluoride levels was observed. Maximum plasma levels (ca. 18-80 ng/ml) were seen at 60 to 120 minutes after the start of the exposure (Lund et al. 1997).


Dermal uptake of F- from liquid HF in humans has been reported by Burke et al. (1973). A man, accidentally exposed to about 5 g of HF excreted 404 mg F- in the urine over the first three days following the accident (Burke et al. 1973). From the reported data it is impossible to quantify the rate of absorption of HF after dermal exposure. In rats which were dermally exposed to 2% HF (2 ml/kg b.w., under occlusion) in water for 1 or 4 hr, serum fluoride reached levels 3 to 6 times (0.78 - 1.42 mg/l) above the level in the controls (0.25 mg/l) at one hour after the exposure. The serum levels increased with exposure time and decreased to near normal values over the next 96 hr (Derenlanko et al. 1985).


Oral uptake of HF has not been studied. However, because of the rapid absorption of fluoride from the gastro-intestinal tract, it is conceivable that HF will be rapidly absorbed after oral administration (Wallace-Durbin 1954; Van Asten et al. 1996). The absorption of orally administered fluoride depends on the presence of fluoride-binding cations such as calcium, magnesium and especially aluminium (CEPA 1993; Janssen 1989; WHO 1984) and on the formulation of the fluoride [e.g. in pharmaceutical preparations (Van Asten et al. 1996)].

Details on distribution in tissues:
After uptake fluoride is transported in the blood. 75% of the total blood fluoride concentration is present in the plasma; the remainder is associated with the red blood cells. About 50% of the fluoride in serum is bound to organic molecules, mainly in perfluoro-fatty acids (WHO 1984) and thus in a non-ionic form.

Fluoride distributes throughout all soft tissues, without particular accumulation in one of these. It may also cross the placenta and reach the unborn child. Sequestration of fluoride occurs in bone and teeth, in which it is incorporated into the mineral structures by exchange with hydroxyl groups. About half of the absorbed fluoride is deposited into bone structure. However, in younger humans and in the elderly, bone fluoride uptake is higher than in mid-age persons. Fluoride levels in plasma and in bone have been shown to be directly correlated to the level of exposure. (Morris, Smith 1982; WHO 1984; NTP 1990; Maurer et al. 1990; Maurer et al. 1993).
Details on excretion:
The major route for excretion of fluoride is via the urine. In animals and humans excretion into urine occurs through the glomerular filtration after which reabsorption in the form of HF may occur in the renal tubules, especially after decreased urinary acidity. Minor routes of excretion are via faeces, saliva (partial re-absorption after ingestion) and perspiration. Excretion via the milk is no relevant route of elimination (Thiessen 1988).

In humans plasma half-lives of 2 to 9 hr have been reported (WHO 1984). Because soft tissue fluoride levels are in equilibrium with plasma levels for these tissues similar half-lives may be assumed. After cessation of exposure, fluoride in bone will be released and eliminated from the body. In humans the half-live for bone fluoride is reported to be in the range of 8 to 20 years. (WHO 1984).

Applicant's summary and conclusion

Inhaled gaseous hydrogen fluoride is virtually completely absorbed in the upper airways. The extent of absorption via the dermal route cannot be specified. Fluoride from any inorganic source is absorbed as HF and circulates in the body as F- or as organically bound fluoride. The distribution of this ion and its route of excretion do not depend on the way via which it enters the body. After oral, inhalatory or dermal exposure to HF, fluoride can be found in all tissues in the body. Sequestration takes place in bone tissue in which about half of the absorbed fluoride is deposited. Secretion is mainly via the urine. In humans half-lives are in the range of 2 to 9 hr for plasma and in the range of 8 to 20 years for fluoride in bone deposits.

Executive summary:


Although the form of fluoride to which one is exposed may influence the amount of fluoride which finally reaches the systemic circulation, the form of fluoride which circulates within the body is not dependent on the fluoride species one has contacted (e.g. Van Asten et al. 1996). Thus when data gaps for systemic effects are established for HF, these data gaps may be filled, using experimental results of other inorganic fluorides, even if these were administered via a route other than inhalation. Toxicity data on other inorganic fluorides will only be used for the hazard assessment of HF, when base set required data for HF are not available.