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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
(such as prepared by pyrolysis of lead tartrate), and catalysts (such as activated carbon containing active metals and hydrogen), can combust spontaneously if allowed to dry while exposed to air and should be handled wet.
Ethylene oxide (C2H4O) has been known to explode when heated in a closed vessel. Experiments using ethylene oxide under pressure should be carried out behind suitable barricades.
Halogenated compounds, such as chloroform (CHCl3), carbon tetrachloride (CC14), and other halogenated solvents, should not be dried with sodium, potassium, or other active metal; violent explosions usually result. Many halogenated compounds are toxic. Oxidized halogen compounds—chlorates, chlorites, bromates, and iodates—and the corresponding peroxy compounds may be explosive at high temperatures.
Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) stronger than 3% can be dangerous; in contact with the skin, it can cause severe burns. Thirty percent H2O2 may decompose violently if contaminated with iron, copper, chromium, or other metals or their salts. Stirring bars may inadvertently bring metal into a reaction and should be used with caution.
Liquid nitrogen-cooled traps open to the atmosphere condense liquid air rapidly. Then, when the coolant is removed, an explosive pressure buildup occurs, usually with enough force to shatter glass equipment if the system has been closed. Hence, only sealed or evacuated equipment should be so cooled.
Lithium aluminum hydride (LiAlH4) should not be used to dry methyl ethers or tetrahydrofuran; fires from reaction with damp ethers are often observed. The reaction of LiAlH4 with carbon dioxide has reportedly generated explosive products. Carbon dioxide or bicarbonate extinguishers should not be used for LiAlH4 fires; instead such fires should be smothered with sand or some other inert substance.
Nitrates, nitro and nitroso compounds may be explosive, especially if more than one nitro group is present. Alcohols and polyols can form highly explosive nitrate esters (e.g., nitroglycerine) from reaction with nitric acid.
Organometallics are hazardous because some organometallic compounds burn vigorously on contact with air or moisture. For example, solutions of t-butyl lithium can cause ignition of some organic solvents on exposure to air. The pertinent information should be obtained for a specific compound.
Oxygen tanks should be handled with care because serious explosions have resulted from contact between oil and high-pressure oxygen. Oil or grease should not be used on connections to an O2 cylinder or gas line carrying O2.
Ozone (O3) is a highly reactive and toxic gas. It is formed by the action of ultraviolet light on oxygen (air), and, therefore, certain ultraviolet sources may require venting to the exhaust hood. Ozonides can be explosive.
Palladium(Pd)or platinum(Pt) on carbon, platinum oxide, Raney nickel, and other catalysts present the danger of explosion if additional catalyst is added to a flask in which an air-flammable vapor mixture and/ or hydrogen is present. The use of flammable filter paper should be avoided.
Parr bombs used for hydrogenations should be handled with care behind a shield, and the operator should wear goggles and a face shield.
Perchlorates should be avoided insofar as possible. Perchlorate salts of organic, organometallic, and inorganic cations are potentially explosive and have been set off either by heating or by shock.
Perchlorates should not be used as drying agents if there is a possibility of contact with organic compounds or of proximity to a dehydrating acid strong enough to concentrate the perchloric acid (HClO4) (e.g., in a drying train that has a bubble counter containing sulfuric acid). Safer drying agents should be used.
Seventy percent HClO4 can be boiled safely at approximately 200 °C, but contact of the boiling undiluted acid or the hot vapor with organic matter, or even easily oxidized inorganic matter, will lead to serious explosions. Oxidizable substances must never be allowed to contact HClO4. This includes wooden benchtops or hood enclosures, which may become highly flammable after absorbing HClO4 liquid or vapors. Beaker tongs, rather than rubber gloves, should be used when handling fuming HClO4. Perchloric acid evaporations should be carried out in a hood that has a good draft. The hood and ventilator ducts should be washed with water frequently (weekly; but see also section 8.C.7.5) to avoid danger of spontaneous combustion or explosion if this acid is in common use. Special perchloric acid hoods are available from many manufacturers. Disassembly of such hoods must be preceded by washing of the ventilation system to remove deposited perchlorates.
Permanganates are explosive when treated with sulfuric acid. If both compounds are used in an absorption train, an empty trap should be placed between them and monitored for entrapment.
Peroxides (inorganic) should be handled carefully. When mixed with combustible materials, barium, sodium, and potassium peroxides form explosives that ignite easily.
Phosphorus (P) (red and white) forms explosive mixtures with oxidizing agents. White phosphorus should be stored under water because it ignites spontaneously in air. The reaction of phosphorus with aqueous