The Department of Chemistry’s Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) Program is administered by the Department EHS Committee. The committee is made up of faculty, graduate students, administrative staff, and the EHS Coordinator, Rick Kayser.
Steve Monstur serves as the EHS Office Lead Contact / Environmental Management Program (EMP) representative for the Chemistry Department. He can be reached by phone at 617-253-0344.
For Emergency Assistance
For emergency assistance in the event of a fire, serious injury, major chemical spill or urgent police matter:
- Call extension 100 (from a campus phone) or 617-253-1212
- Call 2-EHSS or 617-452-3477 during daytime hours for access to the Environmental Health and Safety Office
- The MIT Facilities 24-hour emergency number is 617-253-4948
- For more information, please visit the School of Science’s Emergency page
The Department of Chemistry Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) Committee
Members of the 2023 EHS Committee
Christopher C. Cummins, Professor
Rick L. Danheiser, Professor and Chair of the EHS Committee
John Dolhun, Director of the Chemistry Undergraduate Laboratory
Rick Kayser, EHS Coordinator and Chemical Hygiene Officer
Phone: 617-324 6132
Mohammad Movassaghi, Professor
Alexander T. Radosevich, Professor
Ronald T. Raines, Professor
Gabriela S. Schlau-Cohen, Professor
Matthew D. Shoulders, Professor
Richard J. Wilk, Administrative Officer, Chemistry Headquarters
The Department of Chemistry Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual
It is the policy of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide a safe and healthy workplace in compliance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and regulations of the Department of Labor including 29 CFR 1910.1450 (“Occupational Exposure to Hazardous Chemicals in Laboratories”). The Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual constitutes the document that is required by this regulation. The Plan also includes a discussion of emergency action procedures as required under OHSA Standard 29 CFR 1910.38 (“Employee Emergency Plans and Fire Prevention Plans”).
The purpose of the Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual is to describe proper practices, procedures, equipment, and facilities to be followed by employees, students, visitors, and other personnel working in each laboratory of the Department of Chemistry in order to protect them from potential health hazards presented by chemicals used in the workplace, and to keep exposures below specified limits. It is the responsibility of the faculty, administration, and research and supervisory personnel to know and to follow the provisions of this Plan.
A hard copy of the Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual may be obtained in the Department of Chemistry Headquarters Office (Building 18-380) or by contacting EHS Coordinator Rick Kayser.
Safety Note #14: Work with Hydrofluoric Acid
Professor Rick L. Danheiser
December 20, 2022
Work with Hydrofluoric Acid
Work with hydrofluoric acid poses hazards significantly different from those associated with HCl, HBr, and HI, and other acids, and it is essential that researchers who work with HF are fully trained with regard to the risks associated with this compound and the proper procedures for handling it.
- The use of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride requires prior approval from the Chemistry Department EHS Committee. Please see Part VII A “Prior Approval Requirements for Certain PHSs” for instructions on applying for approval to work with anhydrous HF.
- Anyone working with HF should be familiar with its hazards and in proper protective measures and should know the recommended procedure for treatment in the event of exposure (Reinhardt, C.F. et al.; Am. Ind. Hyg. Assn. J., 1966, 27, 166). All researchers are required to be trained by the EHS Office before beginning work with any form of HF. The training covers health effects, safe use, personal protective equipment, and procedures in the event of suspected exposure. The training can be taken on the web or in the classroom. To register for the training, go to the EHS Training website (http://ehs.mit.edu/site/training ) and click on the Atlas Learning Center’ button or link. Once you arrive at the Learning Center click on the ‘My Profile’ tab to the right. Under ‘MY EHS ACTIVITIES’ click the ‘Update PI/ Activities’ button. Click the ‘Save and Continue’ button (assuming your PI is listed correctly). This will take you to ‘Select Your Activities’. Under ‘CHEMICAL SAFETY’ click the box for ‘Use or work in the area that store or uses hydrofluoric acid’ and click the ‘Submit’ button at the bottom of the page. This will return you to the ‘My Training Profile’ page where you should click on the ‘My Training Needs’ tab. ‘Hydrofluoric acid’ should now be listed and clicking it will bring you to the ‘Training Need’ page where you have a choice of classroom or web-based training.
All prior editions of the Chemistry Department Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual include a detailed discussion of hydrofluoric acid in Section VI E “Special Handling Procedures for Some Common Particularly Hazardous Substances”. Researchers using HF should familiarize themselves with this section of the CHP although it is not a substitute for completing the training from the MIT EHS Office mentioned above. The following is an excerpt from Section VI E of the Chemistry Department Chemical Hygiene Plan.
All forms — dilute or concentrated solutions or the vapor — of hydrofluoric acid (HF) cause severe burns. Inhalation of anhydrous HF or HF mist or vapors can cause severe respiratory tract irritation that may be fatal. Death from pulmonary edema occurred within 2 hours in three of six workers splashed with 70% HF solution despite prompt showering with water. Anhydrous HF is a clear, colorless liquid that boils at 19.5 °C. Because of its low boiling point and high vapor pressure, anhydrous HF must be stored in pressure containers. A 70% aqueous solution is a common form of HF. Hydrofluoric acid is miscible with water in all proportions and forms an azeotrope (38.3% HF) that boils at 112°C. Anhydrous or concentrated aqueous HF causes immediate and serious burns to any part of the body. Dilute solutions (<30%) and gaseous HF are also harmful, although several hours may pass before redness or a burning sensation is noticed. These burns may still be quite severe and progressively damaging to the skin and deeper tissues. “Undissociated HF readily penetrates skin and deep tissue where the corrosive fluoride ion can cause necrosis of soft tissues and decalcification of bone; the destruction produced is excruciatingly painful. Fluoride ion also attacks enzymes (e.g, of glycolysis) and cell membranes. The process of tissue destruction and neutralization of the hydrofluoric acid is prolonged for days, unlike other acids that are rapidly neutralized. Because of the insidious manner of penetration, a relatively mild or minor exposure can cause a serious burn” [Proctor, N. H.; Hughes, J. P.; Fischman, M. L. Chemical Hazards of the Workplace, J. B. Lippincott Co., Philadelphia, 1988, p. 279]. Occasionally workers fail to recognize the importance of seeking medical attention for HF burns before pain commences. By the time the victim is affected with progressively deep and more painful throbbing and burning, serious damage may have taken place. Exposures under fingernails can be a particularly painful problem if ignored. Wearing clothing (including leather shoes and gloves) that has absorbed small amounts of HF can result in serious delayed effects such as painful slow-healing skin ulcers.
When handling HF, it is crucial to ensure adequate ventilation by working only in a hood so that safe levels (3 ppm) are not exceeded. All contact of the vapor of the liquid with eyes, skin, respiratory system, or digestive system must be avoided by using protective equipment including googles, a face shield, and HF-resistant (e.g., neoprene) gloves. The protective equipment should be washed after each use to remove any HF on it. Safety showers and eyewash fountains should be nearby as well as calcium gluconate gel (see below).
Training – Anyone working with HF should have received prior instructions about its hazards and in proper protective measures and should know the recommended procedure for treatment in the event of exposure (Reinhardt, C.F. et al.; Am. Ind. Hyg. Assn. J., 1966, 27, 166). All researchers are required to be trained by the EHS Office before beginning work with HF. The training covers health effects, safe use, personal protective equipment, and procedures in the event of suspected exposure. The training can be taken on the web or in the classroom. To register for the training, go to the EHS Training website and click on the Atlas Learning Center’ button or link. Once you arrive at the Learning Center click on the ‘My Profile’ tab to the right. Under ‘MY EHS ACTIVITIES’ click the ‘Update PI/ Activities’ button. Click the ‘Save and Continue’ button (assuming your PI is listed correctly). This will take you to ‘Select Your Activities’. Under ‘CHEMICAL SAFETY’ click the box for ‘Use or work in the area that store or uses hydrofluoric acid’ and click the ‘Submit’ button at the bottom of the page. This will return you to the ‘My Training Profile’ page where you should click on the ‘My Training Needs’ tab. ‘Hydrofluoric acid’ should now be listed and clicking it will bring you to the ‘Training Need’ page where you have a choice of classroom or web-based training.
Spills and leaks — The vapors of both anhydrous HF and aqueous 70% HF produce visible fumes if they contact moist air. This characteristic can be useful in detecting leaks but cannot be relied on because of atmospheric variations. Spills of HF must be treated immediately to minimize the dangers of vapor inhalation, body contact, corrosion of equipment, and possible generation of hazardous gases. Small spills in a hood should be contained and diluted with water; the resulting solution should be neutralized with calcium hydroxide before disposal. In the event of a major spill, evacuate the area and call x100 to obtain immediate assistance (see Part V Section C 13 “Procedures for Handling the Accidental Release of Hazardous Materials”).
Waste disposal — Waste HF should be slowly added to a larger volume of a stirred solution of calcium hydroxide to precipitate calcium fluoride, which is chemically inert and poses little toxic hazard (sodium fluoride is highly soluble and toxic). Alternatively, hydrofluoric acid can be diluted to about 2% concentration with cold water in a polyethylene vessel, neutralized with aqueous sodium hydroxide, and treated with excess calcium chloride solution to precipitate calcium fluoride.
In the event of exposure — Anyone who knows or even suspects that they have come into direct contact with HF should immediately flush the exposed area with large quantities of cool water. Exposed clothing should be removed as quickly as possible while flushing. Medical attention should be obtained immediately, even if the injury appears slight. On the way to the physician, the burned area should be immersed in a mixture of ice and water. If immersion is impractical, a compress made by inserting ice cubes between layers of gauze should be used. Make sure that the physician understands that the injury was caused by HF and requires treatment very different from other acid burns. Even in the case of very small exposure, washing alone may not be sufficient to completely prevent injury. For minor exposures such as small hole in a glove, application of a calcium gluconate antidote gel can bind free fluoride ion not removed by washing. This gel may be obtained by contacting the EHS Office (452-3477). Be sure to closely monitor the expiration date on the tube of calcium gluconate antidote gel, as it has a relatively short shelf life.
If HF liquid or vapor has contacted the eyes, they should be flushed with large quantities of clean water while the eyelids are held apart This flushing should be continued for 15 minutes. Medical attention should be obtained immediately.
Anyone who has inhaled HF vapor should be removed immediately to an uncontaminated atmosphere and kept warm. Medical help should be obtained immediately. Anyone who has ingested HF should drink a large quantity of water as quickly as possible. Do not induce vomiting. Again, medical help should be obtained immediately. After the acid has been thoroughly diluted with water, if medical attention is delayed, the person should be given milk or two fluid ounces of milk of magnesia to drink to sooth the burning effect.
Safety Note #13: Emergency Procedures
Professor Rick L. Danheiser and the Chemistry Department Safety Committee
November 17, 1995
(Group Safety Coordinators: Please post copies of this Safety Note in every lab in your group)
The incidence of serious accidents in the Chemistry Department has declined dramatically in recent years, due largely to heightened safety consciousness and improved chemical hygiene and safety training. Nonetheless, accidents do occasionally occur, and it is important that all researchers be aware exactly how to respond in the event of an emergency. Study this Safety Note: your familiarity with this information could prevent serious injury or even save a life!
Are You Prepared for Emergencies?
Everyone working in department laboratories should know:
- Exactly how to summon emergency assistance in the event of a fire, spill, or injury
- The precise location of the nearest safety shower and eyewash, and how to operate it
- The location of the nearest fire extinguisher and spill control equipment, and how to use it
Summoning Assistance and General Instructions:
- To summon emergency police, fire, or ambulance assistance, call the Campus Police 24-hour emergency phone line 100. Report the location of the emergency, including both your building and room number. Be as specific as possible about the nature of the emergency and the type of assistance required. By clearly describing the nature of the situation, you can ensure an appropriate response. In the event of uncertainty, Campus Police are instructed to order a “full-force” response!
- Notify other personnel in the area of the emergency. If necessary, activate the nearest fire alarm to order the evacuation of the building. Remember: when a fire alarm sounds, all personnel, without exception, are required to leave the building!
- Be prepared to meet the emergency responders and advise them about the nature of the situation. In the event of fires, explosions, and releases of hazardous materials, a Fire or Incident Command Post marked with colored plastic posts and signs will be set up at the scene by the MIT emergency responders. The MIT official coordinating the emergency response (“Incident Commander”) will be found at this post, and personnel from the laboratory involved in the accident should contact this official to provide information and technical assistance. The Incident Commander will also serve as liasion for communicating information to the Cambridge Fire Department and MIT Campus Police. Fire Department and Police personnel will generally not follow instructions from MIT students and faculty unless authorized by the Incident Commander.
Specific Procedures for Responding to Fires:
MIT Policy states that personnel are not required to fight fires. The following guidelines should be followed to prevent and minimize injury and damage from fires.
- Fires in small vessels can usually be suffocated by loosely covering the vessel. Never pick up a flask or container of burning material!
- A small fire which has just started can sometimes be extinguished with a laboratory fire extinguisher. Extinguishing such fires should only be attempted if you are confident that you can do so successfully and quickly, and from a position in which you are always between the fire and an exit from the laboratory. Do not underestimate fires, and remember that toxic gases and smoke may present additional hazards.
- Small fires involving reactive metals and organometallic compounds (such as magnesium, sodium, potassium, metal hydrides, etc.) should be extinguished with Met-L-X or Met-L-Kyl extinguishers, or by covering with dry sand.
- In the event of a more serious fire, evacuate the laboratory and activate the nearest fire alarm. Be prepared to meet and advise the Fire Department and Emergency Response Team with regard to what hazardous substances are present in your laboratory.
- Personal injuries involving fires: Minor clothing fires can sometimes be extinguished by immediately dropping to the floor and rolling. If a person’s clothing catches fire, they should be doused with water from the safety shower. Fire blankets should only be used as a last-resort measure to extinguish fires since they tend to hold in heat and to increase the severity of burns. Quickly remove contaminated clothing, douse the person with water, and place clean, wet, cold cloth on burned areas. Wrap the injured person in a blanket to avoid shock and get medical attention promptly.
Specific Procedures for Handling the Accidental Release of Hazardous Substances
Plan ahead! Experiments should always be designed so as to minimize the possibility of an accidental release of hazardous substances. Be familiar with the properties (physical, chemical, and toxicological) of hazardous substances before working with them, and develop a contingency plan to deal with the accidental release of each hazardous substance. Make sure that the necessary safety equipment, protective apparel, and spill control materials are readily available.
In the event that a spill does occur, the following General Guidelines for Handling Spills should be followed in the indicated order of priority.
- Notify other personnel of the accident. In the event of the release of a highly toxic gas or volatile material, evacuate the laboratory and post personnel at all entrances to prevent other workers from inadvertently entering the contaminated area. In some cases (e.g. incidents involving the release of highly toxic substances and spills occurring in non-laboratory areas), it may be appropriate to activate a fire alarm to order an evacuation of the building. Call 100 to obtain emergency assistance from the Cambridge Fire Department and MIT Industrial Hygiene Office.
- Tend to any injured or contaminated personnel. If an individual is injured or contaminated with a hazardous substance, then treating them will generally take priority over the spill control measures outlined below. It is important to obtain medical attention as soon as possible; call the Campus Police 24 hour phone line 100 to call for emergency medical technicians who can transport injured personnel to the medical department or hospital.For spills covering small amounts of skin, immediately flush with flowing water for no less than fifteen minutes. If there is no visible burn, wash with warm water and soap, removing any jewelry to facilitate removal of any residual materials. Check the MSDS or LCSS to see if any delayed effects should be expected. It is advisable to seek medical attention for even minor chemical burns. For spills on clothes, don’t attempt to wipe the clothes. Quickly remove all contaminated clothing, shoes and jewelry while using the safety shower. Seconds count, and no time should be wasted because of modesty! Be careful not to spread the chemical on the skin, or especially in the eyes. Use caution when removing pullover shirts or sweaters to prevent contamination of the eye; it may be better to cut the garments off. Immediately flood the affected body area with warm water for at least 15 minutes. Resume if pain returns. Do not use creams, lotions or salves. Get medical attention as soon as possible. Contaminated clothes should be discarded or laundered separately from other clothing.For splashes into the eye, immediately flush the eye with potable water from a gently flowing source for at least 15 minutes. Hold the eyelids away from the eyeball, move the eye up and down and sideways to wash thoroughly behind the eyelids. An eyewash should be used, but if one is not available, injured persons should be placed on their backs and water gently poured into their eyes for at least fifteen minutes. First aid must be followed by prompt treatment by a member of a medical staff or an ophthalmologist especially alerted and acquainted with chemical injuries.
- Take steps to confine and limit the spill if this can be done without risk of injury or contamination. Every research group that works with hazardous substances should have a Group Spill Kit tailored to deal with the potential hazards of the materials being used in their laboratory. Group Safety Officers are responsible for maintaining these spill control kits. Spill kits should be located near laboratory exits for ready access. Typical spill control kits might include: (a) spill control pillows, (b) inert absorbents such as vermiculite, clay, and sand, (c) neutralizing agents for alkali spills such as sodium bisulfate and citric acid, and (d) large plastic scoops and other equipment such as brooms, pails, bags, dust pans, etc.
- Clean up the spill. Specific procedures for cleaning up spills will vary depending on the location of the accident (elevator, corridor, chemical storeroom, laboratory hood), the amount and physical properties of the spilled material (volatile liquid, solid, or toxic gas), and the degree and type of toxicity. It is MIT Policy that the responsibility for having a spill cleaned up rests with the person causing the spill. If the individual responsible is unknown, or unable to clean up the spill due to injury, then responsibility for dealing with the spill rests with the Department. Custodians are not permitted to clean up spills of hazardous materials. The Environmental Medical Service, Safety Office, and Campus Police will provide technical advice, but are not responsible for the spill clean up.
Outlined below are some general guidelines for handling several common spill situations.
- Materials of low flammability which are not volatile or which have low toxicity. This category of hazardous substances includes inorganic acids (sulfuric, nitric) and caustic bases (sodium and potassium hydroxide). For clean-up, wear appropriate protective apparel including gloves, goggles, and (if necessary) shoe-coverings. Neutralize the spilled chemicals with materials such as sodium bisulfate (for alkalis) and sodium carbonate or bicarbonate (for acids). Absorb the material with inert clay or vermiculite, scoop it up, and dispose of it according to the appropriate procedures detailed in the Chemical Hygiene Plan.
- Flammable solvents. Fast action is crucial in the event that a flammable solvent of relatively low toxicity is spilled. This category includes pet ether, hexane, pentane, diethyl ether, dimethoxyethane, and tetrahydrofuran. Immediately alert other workers in the laboratory, extinguish all flames, and turn off any spark-producing equipment. In some cases the power to the lab should be shut off with the circuit-breaker. As quickly as possible, the spilled solvent should be soaked up using spill control pillows. These should be sealed in containers and disposed of properly.
- Highly toxic substances. Do not attempt to clean up a spill of a highly toxic substance by yourself. Notify other personnel of the spill and contact the Industrial Hygiene Office (253-2596) to obtain assistance in evaluating the hazards involved. The Cambridge Fire Department and the IHO have special protective equipment to permit safe entry into areas contaminated with highly toxic substances.
- Handling Leaking Gas Cylinders. Occasionally, a cylinder or one of its component parts develops a leak. Most such leaks occur at the top of the cylinder in areas such as the valve threads, safety device, valve stem, and valve outlet. If a leak is suspected, do not use a flame for detection; rather, a flammable-gas leak detector or soapy water or other suitable solution should be used. If the leak cannot be remedied by tightening a valve gland or a packing nut, emergency action procedures should be effected and the supplier should be notified. Laboratory workers should never attempt to repair a leak at the valve threads or safety device; rather, they should consult with the supplier for instructions.The following general procedures can be used for relatively minor leaks where the indicated action can be taken without the exposure of personnel to highly toxic substances. Note that if it is necessary to move a leaking cylinder through populated portions of the building, place a plastic bag, rubber shroud, or similar device over the top and tape it (duct tape preferred) to the cylinder to confine the leaking gas.(i) Flammable, inert, or oxidizing gases: Move the cylinder to an isolated area (away from combustible material if the gas is flammable or an oxidizing agent) and post signs that describe the hazards and state warnings. If feasible, leaking cylinders should always be moved into laboratory hoods.(ii) Corrosive gases may increase the size of the leak as they are released and some corrosives are also oxidants or flammable. Move the cylinder to an isolated, well-ventilated area and use suitable means to direct the gas into an appropriate chemical neutralizer. Post signs that describe the hazards and state warnings.(iii) Toxic gases – Follow the same procedure as for corrosive gases. Move the cylinder to an isolated, well-ventilated area and use suitable means to direct the gas into an appropriate chemical neutralizer. Post signs that describe the hazards and state the warnings.When the nature of the leaking gas or the size of the leak constitutes a more serious hazard, self-contained breathing apparatus and protective apparel may be required. Evacuate personnel from the affected area (activate the fire alarm to order the evacuation of the building) and call Campus Police (dial 100) to obtain emergency assistance.
In the event of a medical emergency, it is important to remain calm and to do only what is necessary to protect life.
- Summon assistance by calling the Campus Police 24 hour emergency line 100. Police trained as emergency medical technicians will respond and can transport injured personnel to the medical department or hospital.
- Do not move an injured person unless he or she is in danger of further harm.
- If a coworker has ingested a toxic substance, have the victim drink large amounts of water (never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person) and obtain medical assistance at once. Attempt to learn exactly what substances were ingested and inform the medical staff as soon as possible.
- If a coworker is bleeding severely, elevate the wound above the level of the heart and apply firm pressure directly over the wound with a clean cloth, handkerchief, or your hand. Obtain immediate medical assistance.
- Do not touch a person in contact with a live electrical circuit – disconnect the power first!
- Procedures for handling medical emergencies involving fires and exposure to hazardous substances are discussed in previous sections above.
Additional information on emergency procedures can be found in the Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual (especially Part VB and Part IX) and Prudent Practices in the Laboratory (particularly Chapter 5, Section 5.C.11 and Chapter 6, Sections 6.F and 6.G).
Safety Note #12: Proper Procedures for Working with Liquid Nitrogen
Professor Rick L. Danheiser, Shuang Qiao, Ken Stockman, and the Chemistry Department Safety Committee
Friday, September 29, 1995
Procedures for Working with Liquid Nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is frequently used in chemical research laboratories for the purpose of cooling. Liquid nitrogen is a valuable coolant because of its low boiling point (bp -196 ƒC), inexpensive price, and low toxicity. In comparison to liquid air, which was previously used as a popular coolant, liquid nitrogen has the advantage that it does not support combustion.
Handling Liquid Nitrogen: Personal Protection
Cryogenic liquids such as liquid nitrogen can cause very severe burns upon eye or skin contact. Splashes are common when handling liquid nitrogen, and safety goggles must therefore be worn at all times when working with this material. In addition, protective gloves that can easily be removed in the event of a spill should be worn when handling liquid nitrogen (alternatively, potholders may sometimes be more convenient for handling small containers of cryogenic materials). Particular care must be taken to prevent uninsulated vessels containing liquid nitrogen from coming into contact with unprotected parts of the body, since extremely cold materials can become firmly bonded to the skin such that separation is not possible without serious injury.
Contact of the skin with liquid nitrogen can cause severe cryogenic burns; the tissue damage that results is similar to that caused by frostbite or thermal burns. Since small amounts of liquid nitrogen quickly evaporate from the surface of exposed skin, some inexperienced workers may mistakenly underestimate the risk of cryogenic burns when working with this material. In fact, it is not unusual for spills and splashes of liquid nitrogen to become trapped under rings, bracelets, watchbands, or inside gloves, and this can result in serious and painful burns.
Containers for Liquid Nitrogen
The properties of some materials (including metals) change drastically when exposed to cryogenic liquids such as liquid nitrogen. Containers for such liquids must therefore be selected carefully to ensure that they can withstand the temperatures and pressures they may be exposed to. Liquid nitrogen is commonly stored in Dewar flasks which should be taped to minimize the hazard in the event of an implosion.
Cold Traps Cooled with Liquid Nitrogen
A common use of liquid nitrogen is as a coolant for traps incorporated in vacuum lines. Extreme care must be employed when using liquid nitrogen as a cold trap coolant. Systems including liquid nitrogen traps must never be opened to the atmosphere until the trap is removed from the coolant. Oxygen has a higher boiling point (-183 ƒC) than nitrogen (-196 ƒC), and will condense out of the atmosphere and collect in a liquid-nitrogen cooled vessel open to the air. Liquid oxygen forms highly explosive mixtures with many organic materials. If you suspect liquid oxygen has condensed in a cold trap, then shield the trap (with an explosion shield, closed hood window, etc.), post a sign indicating the danger, and allow the trap (vented to the atmosphere) to slowly warm to room temperature.
Liquid Nitrogen and Condensed Argon
Argon, a gas commonly employed as an “inert atmosphere” for chemical reactions, distillations, and other laboratory operations, also has a boiling point (-186 ƒC) which is higher than that of nitrogen. Consequently, liquid argon will condense in a reaction vessel under an argon atmosphere which is cooled with liquid nitrogen. This creates an extremely hazardous situation, since if the vessel is then removed from the coolant, the liquid argon will instantly vaporize, expanding in volume by a factor of 847! Even if the vessel is vented (e.g. to an inert gas line), an explosion is very likely due to the rapid increase in pressure in the vessel. Consequently, never cool an apparatus that is under an argon atmosphere using liquid nitrogen.
Safety Note #11: Procedures for the Disposal of Excess and Waste Chemicals
Professor Rick L. Danheiser and the Chemistry Department Safety Committee
Friday, July 14, 1995
Procedures for the Disposal of Excess and Waste Chemicals
All members of the Department have a responsibility to give proper attention to the disposal of the excess and waste chemicals involved in their research. Chemicals must be disposed of in ways that avoid harm to people and the environment. The methods of disposal must comply with the relevant local, state, and federal laws including, in some cases, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (“RCRA”) of 1977 which is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Consideration of the means of disposal of chemical wastes should be part of the planning of all experiments before they are carried out. The cost of disposing of excess and waste chemicals has become extremely expensive, and can even exceed the original cost of purchasing the chemical! As a rough guide, the cost of disposal for a typical container is approximately $10. Whenever practical, order the minimum amount of material possible in order to avoid the accumulation of large stocks of “excess chemicals” which will not be needed in future research. Such collections of “excess chemicals” frequently constitute safety hazards, since many substances decompose upon long storage and occasionally their containers become damaged or degrade. In addition, the disposal of significant quantities of excess chemicals ultimately presents a very significant financial burden to faculty research accounts.
Specific Procedures for Disposal of Excess and Waste Chemicals
This section presents specific procedures for arranging for the disposal of the most common classes of excess and waste chemicals. Although many such chemicals can be removed from your laboratory without prior treatment, in some cases it is advisable to convert a substance into a less hazardous one prior to disposal. It is the responsibility of the individual researcher and the faculty supervisor to evaluate the properties of the excess and waste chemicals resulting from their work, and to determine when special handling procedures are needed outside the general guidelines outlined below. The MIT Safety Office (Don Batson, ext. 3-4736) should be consulted for assistance in planning the disposal of such hazardous compounds. Detailed procedures for the laboratory destruction of a number of hazardous chemicals can be found in Chapter 7 of Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals (National Academy Press, 1995). Each research group should have a copy of this authoritative reference which is also available in the Department’s Library of Laboratory Safety (18-383). See Melissa Manolis (18-390) if your group needs a copy of this book.
Disposal of excess and waste chemicals is arranged by calling the MIT Safety Office (ext. 3-4736) which will send an employee to pick up and transport the materials to the special storage area maintained by the Safety Office. The waste chemicals must be prepared for pickup by storing them in break-resistant containers (metal, plastic, or plastic-coated glass), or in breakable containers enclosed within “approved secondary containers” (i.e. large rubber, metal, or plastic bottle carriers with carrying handles). Each container must have attached to it a “Red Tag” identifying the type of waste and the hazards associated with it. Red Tags can be obtained from the Safety Office (E19-207). When the waste material is picked up, a packing list must be filled out providing information concerning the quantity and identity of the chemical and any hazards associated with it (flammable, toxic, water reactive, etc.).
Liquid Organic Chemicals
The local regulations that govern the MIT sewer system expressly prohibit the discharge of organic solvents into the system. No liquid organic chemicals should be disposed of “down the drain”, and this rule applies to all solvents whether or not they are miscible with water. Rotary evaporators should always be equipped with effective cooling condensers to trap solvent vapors. Excess and waste liquid organic chemicals should be stored in appropriate containers as outlined above and sent to the Safety Office Waste Chemicals Storage Area (WCSA). Compatible mixtures of liquid organic compounds can be stored in one container provided that the Red Tag indicates the relative proportion of each component. Halogenated compounds (e.g. chloroform) should be segregated in separate containers from other organic compounds. Note that chlorinated solvents form explosive mixtures with certain other compounds (e.g. with some amines, with acetone in the presence of base, etc.). Ethereal solvents (diethyl ether, THF, dioxane, DME, etc.) should be stored in glass containers and diluted with water. Prolonged storage of ethers should be avoided since they can form explosive peroxides upon standing.
Aqueous solutions of acids and bases in the pH range 5-9 can be disposed of by pouring them down the drain provided that they do not contain toxic contaminants such as certain heavy metal salts. Consult Chapter 7 of Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals for a discussion of the toxicity hazards of various inorganic salts. Concentrated acids and alkalis should be neutralized and then disposed of down the drain.
Solid Inorganic and Organic Chemicals
Excess and waste solid chemicals can often be sent to the Waste Chemical Storage Area (WCSA) in their original containers. Compatible solids can be stored in one container provided that the Red Tag indicates the relative proportion of each component. Certain classes of solid waste chemicals require special handling. Toxic solid wastes can be sent to the WCSA in properly labeled, tightly sealed containers. Contact the Environmental Medical Service (ext. 3-2596) for advice on the handling and packaging of toxic waste chemicals (information on the properties and toxicity of organic and inorganic chemicals can also be obtained from the references in the Chemistry Department Library of Laboratory Safety, 18-383). Alkali metals such as sodium and potassium should be stored under mineral oil in tightly sealed containers and sent to the WCSA for disposal. Other pyrophoric metals and compounds such as magnesium, LAH, and NaH should be stored in tightly sealed metal containers and may be sent to the WCSA for disposal. Waste mercury should be stored in bottles or jars and sent to the WCSA; broken thermometers that contain mercury should be placed in jars and also sent to the WCSA. Consult Chemical Research Safety Note #4 for procedures for handling mercury.
Unknown Waste Chemicals
The MIT Safety Office will not accept unknown chemicals for transport to the WCSA. This is due to the fact that our outside contractors are prohibited from accepting unidentified materials for disposal. It is the responsibility of the research group generating the material to determine the chemical identity of the unknown waste; in some cases this may require paying for the services of an outside analytical laboratory. Once the composition of the waste material is known, it can then be disposed of according to the procedures outlined above.
Gas cylinders are not sent to the WCSA for disposal. Excess and empty “returnable” gas cylinders as well as small “lecture-bottle-type” cylinders are picked up by BOC Gases (at MIT, ext. 3-4761). BOC will accept cylinders produced by the following companies: BOC (Airco), Matheson, Scott, Wesco, Middlesex Welding, Northeast Air Gas, MedTech, Spectra, and M. G. Products. For additional information on the disposal of gas cylinders, call BOC at the above number.
Whenever possible, avoid purchasing chemicals in non-returnable lecture bottles. The disposal of these cylinders has become extremely expensive, generally costing $1000 or more. Check with the Safety Office before ordering gases in lecture bottles other than those offered by the vendors listed above to determine what the company’s return policy is. For gases purchased in lecture bottles from companies other than those listed above, it is recommended that you save the original shipping crate, warning labels, valve covers, etc. so that your cylinders can be returned to the vendor in accordance with the Department of Transportation’s regulations and the vendor’s procedure. All researchers are required to have their empty cylinders returned to the vendor before leaving MIT.
The disposal of several other categories of excess and waste materials are governed by special regulations which will be the subject of future Chemical Research Safety Notes. Materials of this type include (contact the indicated office for information on disposal):
- Controlled Drugs (contact Marc Jones, ext. 3-1802)
- Radioactive Materials (contact Radiation Protection Office, ext. 3-2180)
- Biological Wastes (Contact Biohazards Office, ext. 3-1740)
- Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) (Contact Safety Office, ext. 3-4736)
- Chemistry Department Summer ’95 Cleanup
Special arrangements have been made with the Safety Office for the exchange and disposal of excess chemicals within the Department. Every research group should schedule a general laboratory cleanup prior to the last week of July. As part of this cleanup, lab stockrooms should be carefully inspected and old and unneeded chemicals should be separated for disposal. During the week of July 31, these chemicals can be delivered for disposal to Room 18-124. The following rules will govern the Excess Chemical Exchange and Disposal Operation:
- Chemicals will be accepted in Room 18-124 between the hours of 1 and 4 PM only on July 31-August 3.
- Group Safety Coordinators must accompany the chemicals when they are brought to Room 18-124.
- Only chemicals in original, labeled commercial containers will be accepted; these containers must also have their original caps (no septa!). Bottles should contain at least 1/4 of their original contents. Lecture bottles and gas cylinders cannot be accepted. Pyrophoric reagent solutions (e.g. butyllithium, DIBAL, LAH solutions) and waste mercury will not be accepted. We also cannot accept radioactive materials and biohazardous materials.
- Chemicals must be transported to Room 18-124 using appropriate secondary containers.
- It is not necessary to provide an inventory of the excess chemicals presented for disposal. However, the Safety Committee personnel staffing the room will maintain a record of the number of containers submitted by each group; please come prepared with this figure.
The chemicals listed below cannot be accepted since the Safety Office temporarily does not have an outside contractor that will accept these specific compounds for disposal.
- Ammonium vanadate
- Arsenic, arsenic(III) oxide, arsenic(V) oxide, orthoarsenic acid
- Beryllium, cadmium
- Calcium chromate
- Cyanogen bromide
- Dichlorophenylarsine, diethylarsine
- Hydroxydimethylarsine oxide (cacodylic acid)
- Lead tetraacetate, lead subacetate, lead phosphate, tetraethyl lead
- Nickel carbonyl
- Osmium tetroxide
- Phenylmercuric acetate
- Selenium, selenourea, selenious acid, selenium sulfide
- Thallium acetate, carbonate, chloride, nitrate, oxide, selenite, and sulfate
- Vanadium trioxide, tetroxide, and pentoxide
During the first week of August, each group in the Department will have an opportunity to examine the excess chemicals collected and select compounds they have use for in their research. Copies of the schedule for this chemical exchange operation will be available on Friday, August 4. Only Group Safety Coordinators will be authorized to “sign-out” chemicals, and each research group will be assigned a specific time slot to examine the excess chemical collection.
The Excess Chemical Exchange and Disposal Operation has been arranged to facilitate the redistribution of chemicals within the Department so as to reduce the need to purchase chemicals which are already available (but not needed) in other laboratories. This operation should also serve to reduce collections of excess chemicals which (as discussed above) can constitute safety hazards and which also can present a very significant financial burden to individual group research accounts. Through a “one-time-only” arrangement, the Safety Office will assume the expense of disposing of the unclaimed, excess chemicals collected in this operation.
Learn More about the Departmental Training Policies
- New personnel must attend the Chemical Hygiene and Safety Lecture that is presented in December and January; or take the online version, “Chemical Hygiene & Safety for Chemists EHS00101w.” The online version is available on the MIT Learning Center (certificates required) and can be accessed on the EHS Office training website. Please note that the preferred browser for EHS online trainings is Firefox 17 ESR.
- Read and understand the Chemistry Department Chemical Hygiene Plan and Safety Manual. Copies of the manual can be obtained from the Department of Chemistry Headquarters Office (Building 18-380) or from Rick Kayser (Building 18-281). You may also email Rick Kayser your location and a manual will be dropped off to you.
- Receive Initial Lab Specific Chemical Hygiene and Safety Training from your Laboratory Supervisor or your EHS Representative. This is an orientation outlining the location of safety equipment in your laboratory and any special hazards specific to your research group.
- Complete the training course—Managing Hazardous Waste. This is offered as a web-based course (certificates required) and is accessible through the EHS Office training website. This is an annual requirement.
- New members of the Department must sign the EHS Clearance Form and obtain their supervisor’s signature. Submit the completed EHS Clearance Form to Rick Kayser as a scanned copy via email or bring a hard copy to Building 18-281. You must submit the form even if you will not be working in an area where hazardous materials are in use.
No individual is permitted to work in areas in which chemicals are in use until all of the above steps have been completed and a signed EHS Clearance Form is submitted.
Note: Additional training is required for individuals working with other hazardous materials including, but not limited to, lasers, radioactive materials, and certain biohazardous materials. Completing the Training Needs Assessment Form will dictate your training needs. It is the responsibility of the researcher to ensure that all of these training requirements are met.
Please contact Rick Kayser, EHS Coordinator, via email or phone at (617) 324-6132 with any questions.
Prescription Safety Glasses
Learn How to Obtain Your Prescription Safety Glasses
The Chemistry Department continues to encourage researchers to obtain prescription safety glasses.
To obtain prescription safety glasses at MIT’s expense, please fill out this form before following these steps:
- To begin the process, obtain a prescription or use a prescription that is less than two years old (you must pay for this). A prescription may be obtained with any optometrist. Appointments with MIT Eye Service may be made through the HealthELife portal or by calling 617-258-9768.
- MIT Optical is now located on the first floor of MIT Medical (Building E23). MIT Optical is open Monday–Friday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m. by appointment only. To make an appointment, dial 617-258-5367 or send an email to MITOptical@med.mit.edu.
- The optician will assist in choosing your frame, take necessary measurements, and place your order.
Please note the following:
- Prior approval from Chemistry is needed if you choose a frame and/or lens, which are more expensive than those that are approved for this program. Or optician will charge your credit card for your portion.
- You will be notified when your glasses are ready to be picked up.
- Optician will verify glasses were made correctly and make adjustments.
- E-Mail a copy of the receipt to Deborah Obanla once you’ve placed your order. The form serves as an important receipt for Chemistry to reconcile with charges each month.
- Bifocal lenses will be furnished when necessary.
- Prescription safety glasses that have become damaged or out of prescription may be replaced.