In General Which is Worse: Acid or Base Conditions?

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Question In general, which is worse – acid or base conditions? Answers and Discussion Obviously a balance is required. The neutral pH is 7.0, however the natural pH of sea water is typically around 8.2 and that of fresh water is typically around 6.5. The answer to the question depends very much on whether or not we are discussing the environment or human health. Human Health: Our skin is slightly acidic (pH 5 to 5.5) and we can withstand low pH values quite readily. If we ingest or touch water which is basic (say, pH 10) we suffer much greater consequences than an equivalent acid (pH 4). The acid condition is not particularly harmful to ingest, not particularly harmful to touch, although problematic if spilled into the eye. In this case, copious water will usually do the trick and rinsing is effective at any stage. The base condition is harmful to the skin and may cause minor burning. If not, prolonged use (e.g. washing with alkaline soap) will cause dermatitis and is a main cause of skin rashes. If ingested, the base will cause bad burning and if spilled into the eye the results can be disastrous. Alkali reacts with proteins in the eye to form a crust which is then difficult to penetrate with rinsing, so rinsing with water must be done quickly to avoid the crust forming. Environmental Health: The environment is quite different. Very few organisms can survive acidic conditions. Waters which are very acid (e.g. some natural rivers, water affected by acid rain and water lying in caves) contain no life. They are crystal clear (because nothing is alive), look very attractive and are very pretty. However, the ecology has gone! By contrast, a number of organisms can survive in alkaline conditions. These organisms are not necessarily friendly to human life and include algae, bacteria and some fungi. These can create toxic conditions to people, are unsightly and smelly. They are not desirable conditions for people to put up with, and are the typical images of pollution...
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