What Is Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity?
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Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity - Causes, Side Effects, Diagnosis, and Treatment

Published on Sep 13, 2023 and last reviewed on Sep 19, 2023   -  5 min read


Improper handling of oxygen difluoride, a toxic gas, can create substantial risks to both people and the environment. Read below to know more.


Oxygen difluoride, also known as OF2 or F2O, is a chemical compound composed of one oxygen atom and two fluorine atoms. It exists as a colorless gas with a high level of reactivity and can react with various materials such as metals, organic compounds, and plastics. Oxygen difluoride is commonly used in the semiconductor industry as a cleaning agent for silicon wafers due to its ability to remove oxide layers from surfaces.

When heated to high temperatures, the substance breaks down into harmful gaseous fluorine. If containers are exposed to high heat for a prolonged period, there is a risk of them violently rupturing and propelling. The synonyms of oxygen difluoride are Oxygen difluoride, Difluorine monoxide, and Oxydifluoride.

What Are the Uses of Oxygen Difluoride?

Oxygen difluoride has several practical applications in various industries, which include:

  • Its ability to remove oxide layers from surfaces makes it a valuable cleaning agent in the semiconductor industry, where it is used to clean silicon wafers.
  • OF2 is used in the production of uranium hexafluoride, which is a compound used in the nuclear fuel cycle.
  • In organic chemistry, it is also employed as a fluorinating agent. It also functions as an oxidizing agent in the synthesis of certain compounds.

What Is Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity?

Oxygen difluoride (OF2) is a toxic gas that can be extremely dangerous to both human health and the ecosystem if not handled properly. When OF2 comes into contact with water, it can form hydrofluoric acid, which is a highly corrosive and toxic substance. Exposure to OF2 can occur through inhalation, skin contact, or eye contact.

As per Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations (for airborne substances), the permissible exposure limit (PEL) is 0.05 ppm (parts per million) on average over an eight-hour work shift. According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) recommends that the airborne exposure limit for OF2 should not exceed 0.05 mg/m3 at any given time. On the other hand, the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACGIH) recommends an airborne exposure limit of 0.05 ppm at any given time.

What Are the Routes of Exposure for Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity?

  1. Inhalation: The most common route of exposure to OF2 is through inhalation of the gas or vapors. This can occur in industrial settings where OF2 is used or during accidental releases. Workers in industries such as semiconductor manufacturing, nuclear fuel production, and organic chemistry are at increased risk of toxicity.
  2. Skin Contact: OF2 can also enter the body through skin contact. This can occur when individuals come into direct contact with the liquid or vapor form of OF2 or when clothing or other materials that have come into contact with OF2 are not properly removed or decontaminated.
  3. Eye Contact: OF2 is a strong irritant and can cause severe eye damage upon contact. Eye exposure can occur through direct contact with the liquid or vapor form of OF2 or through contact with contaminated objects or surfaces.
  4. Ingestion: Ingestion of OF2 is not a common route of exposure, as the chemical is not typically used in food or consumer products. However, ingestion can occur in rare cases of accidental ingestion or intentional misuse.

What Are the Health Effects of Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity?

The health effects of oxygen difluoride toxicity include:

  • Coughing, shortness of breath, and wheezing may be present as a result of inhalational exposure, as OF2 can cause irritation of the respiratory system.
  • Redness, swelling, and burning sensations may develop due to skin contact. OF2 is a strong irritant and can cause severe eye irritation. Exposure to the liquid form of OF2 through direct contact can result in frostbite.
  • In severe cases of OF2 toxicity, pulmonary edema will develop due to fluid accumulation inside the lungs. Symptoms of this condition include breathing difficulties and coughing up frothy sputum.
  • Exposure to OF2 can also cause chest pain and tightness, which can be a sign of respiratory distress or pulmonary edema.
  • Individuals who have been exposed to OF2 may experience nausea and vomiting as a result of the toxicity.
  • Headache, muscle weakness, and dizziness may be present as a result of the higher level of exposure.
  • In some cases, individuals who have been exposed to OF2 may develop long-term health effects, such as chronic respiratory problems or lung damage.

Adverse Effects on Aquatic Life Due to Toxicity -

Environmental contamination can be caused by runoff from fire control or water used for dilution. This is the major reason for developing toxic effects in aquatic animals. Aquatic animals can experience various adverse effects from exposure to oxygen difluoride, including damage to respiratory systems, metabolic imbalances, impaired reproduction and development, and behavioral changes.

How to Diagnose Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity?

It is recommended that workers should undergo certain tests before starting employment and periodically thereafter. The diagnostic procedures used for oxygen difluoride toxicity include:

  • Medical History: The healthcare professional will inquire about the occupation, hobbies, and any recent exposure to chemicals, including OF2.
  • Physical Examination: The doctor will conduct a physical evaluation to check for any signs of respiratory distress, skin burns, or eye damage.
  • Laboratory Testing: Blood and urine tests may be performed to check for the presence of toxic chemicals, including OF2. Excessive exposure to fluorine can be detected by measuring the levels of fluorine in urine, with levels exceeding 4 mg/L (milligram per liter) indicating overexposure.
  • Imaging Tests: Chest X-rays or CT (computed tomography) scans may be performed to check for any lung damage or fluid buildup in the lungs.
  • Pulmonary Function Tests: These tests evaluate the condition of the lungs and can reveal any respiratory issues.

What Is the Treatment for Oxygen Difluoride Toxicity?

The following are the treatment options for oxygen difluoride toxicity:

  1. Withdrawal of Exposure: The first step in treating OF2 toxicity is to remove the affected individual from the source of exposure to prevent further exposure.
  2. Supportive Care: Supportive care, such as oxygen therapy or mechanical ventilation, may be necessary to help the patient breathe and manage respiratory distress.
  3. Decontamination: If OF2 comes into contact with the skin, the affected area should be immediately washed with soap and water. Any contaminated clothing should be removed, and the affected individual should be showered thoroughly. If OF2 comes into contact with the eyes, immediate irrigation with water or saline solution is necessary to flush out the chemical and prevent further damage.
  4. Medications: Depending on the symptoms present, medications such as pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and bronchodilators may be prescribed.
  5. Hospitalization: In severe cases of OF2 toxicity, hospitalization may be necessary to monitor the patient's condition and provide intensive care.


However, oxygen difluoride creates serious concern due to its high reactivity and toxicity. The use of OF2 requires strict safety precautions and proper handling procedures as per the guidelines in order to reduce threats to nature and human life. Workers should wear protective clothing, including gloves, goggles, and respiratory protection when handling OF2. The gas should only be used in well-ventilated areas to minimize the risk of inhalation. Proper handling and disposal of OF2 can help minimize environmental contamination and protect aquatic life.

Last reviewed at:
19 Sep 2023  -  5 min read




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