Concrete burns can result from prolonged exposure to concrete mix, which contains a mixture of aggregates and cement mix that is extremely caustic.

How does cement mix burn the skin?

The chemicals that compose cement mix include iron, calcium, aluminum, silicon, and other chemicals. When the cement powder combines with crushed rock or other aggregate, it creates a mixture that reacts with water and hardens permanently.

While all the chemicals in concrete mix can be dangerous, the real danger is calcium oxide. While dry calcium oxide is relatively harmless, when added to water it creates calcium hydroxide — an alkali with a pH of 12 or 13 (the strongest alkali is pH 14).

Because of the strength of the alkali, concrete burns are often third- or fourth-degree burns that damage all layers of skin along with the fatty layer of tissue and even the bone underneath.

The real problem with a concrete burn is that it rarely causes pain; you could be sustaining irreversible damage and have no idea. Once you become aware of the injury, it can be difficult to prevent further damage.

Concrete mix can also wick the moisture out of the skin and cause tissue damage or cell death.

Where are concrete burns most common?

Concrete burns can happen almost anywhere, but are common on construction sites and in other industrial or commercial settings. These burns can also occur at home when homeowners use concrete or cement mixes for repairs and home improvement projects.

Burns are common on arms, legs, and hands.

What should I do if I come in contact with wet cement?

In most cases, washing the affected area with water would be your best option. However, because concrete or cement mixes are intended to mix with water to produce a chemical reaction, this can cause hard concrete to form on the affected area, or it can cause other adverse chemical reactions. Carefully follow the first aid instructions that come with the concrete mix in the event of contact with wet cement mix.

You might be able to handle certain burns from concrete mixes by gently brushing the concrete mix off the skin; once you have removed the powdered chemicals, wash the skin with water and a mild, pH-neutral or slightly acidic soap. Do not use an alkaline soap. Remember to always read the instructions or call the manufacturer.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) recommends rinsing your skin with diluted vinegar to neutralize any residue.

As we stated above, burns can occur without you noticing, even after you have removed the mix from your skin. If you come in contact with wet concrete mix or wet cement, watch your skin for any changes. If your skin changes color (e.g., often a blue-purple color), becomes red or inflamed, or blisters, seek medical care immediately.

How can I avoid a concrete burn?

To avoid chemical burns from concrete or cement mix, wear waterproof gloves and rubber boots while handling concrete or cement mix. Always wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. To ensure no concrete mix touches the skin, OSHA recommends taping your sleeves to your gloves. You should also always wear eye protection to prevent chemical eye burns.

Exercise caution when handling the powdered concrete mix to prevent the powdered mix from dispersing through the air. Take care when handling the wet mix to prevent spillage and splatter.

Always wash your hands before and after using cement mix and rinse your skin with a vinegar solution if you believe you came in contact with any mix, wet or dry.

Are you having trouble paying for medical care for a concrete burn?

Unfortunately, burn care can be prohibitively expensive, but you might have options to get compensation for your medical bills. If you suffered a concrete chemical burn because of another party’s negligence, call our legal referral specialists to determine whether you have a valid claim for compensation: 844-549-8774.