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Subject: Material hazards

Material hazards

From: Karen Pavelka <pavelka>
Date: Monday, July 29, 1991
We spent some time last week with a representative from the
environmental safety department who alerted us to several potentially
dangerous situations in out labs which may exist in other labs as well.
Hydrogen peroxide: We had a 30% solution of Hydrogen peroxide stored in
our chemical cabinet. Hydrogen peroxide is not itself flammable, but
provides a concentrated source of oxygen and thus potentiates combustion
In high concentrations it can spontaneously ignite organic materials on
contact. This means if some is accidentally spilled on wood or paper it
can burst into flame. The 3% solution you have in the bathroom is not a

Ether: We had an unopened can of ether. The can exhibited some rust on
the outside, indicating accelerated deterioration. The substance inside
the can was now in the state of a "friction-sensitive and
shock-sensitive explosive". In this state it is extremely dangerous and
should not be moved or touched. We had someone from the safety office
remove it. If ether  is to be stored it should be as cold as possible in
a dessicated container and never kept for longer than 18 months.

Coincidentally, the next day we found a bottle of Picric acid in a
biological staining kit. Picric acid is ten time more explosive than
TNT. It volatilizes and reforms into crystals which in this case had
collected inside the screw-on cap. It is a "friction-sensitive explosive
and if the cap had been removed it would have blown up. Again, it is
something that if encountered should not be moved or touched. We had to
call someone form the safety office again to dispose of it.

I was unaware of the dangers associated with any of these chemicals.

    *** Moderator's comment:  In the not-too-ancient past, Doug
    Nishimura posted a warning about picric acid.  Anyone who missed it
    should request YEAR4-2.DST from the FileList.

We had the hydrogen peroxide and ether on hand for lead reversion, but
have since disposed of them. In the future we will only order small
quantities of them as they are needed, and will dispose of the excess.

                  Conservation DistList Instance 5:12
                  Distributed: Tuesday, July 30, 1991
                        Message Id: cdl-5-12-002
Received on Monday, 29 July, 1991

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