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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
LABORATORY CHEMICAL SAFETY SUMMARY: DIETHYL ETHER
(Ethyl ether, ether)
bp 35 °C, mp -116 °C
Slightly soluble in water (8 g/100 mL)
Pungent odor detectable at 0.33 ppm
2.6 (air = 1.0)
442 mmHg at 20 °C
LD50 oral (rat)
LC50 inhal (rat)
73,000 ppm (2 h)
Extremely flammable liquid and vapor; forms explosive peroxides upon storage in contact with air.
The acute toxicity of diethyl ether is low. Inhalation of high concentrations can cause sedation, unconsciousness, and respiratory paralysis. These effects are usually reversible upon cessation of exposure. Diethyl ether is mildly irritating to the eyes and skin, but does not generally cause irreversible damage. Repeated contact can cause dryness and cracking of the skin due to removal of skin oils. The liquid is not readily absorbed through the skin, in part because of its high volatility. Diethyl ether is slightly toxic by ingestion. Diethyl ether is regarded as having adequate warning properties.
There is no evidence for carcinogenicity of diethyl ether, and no reproductive effects have been reported. Chronic exposure to diethyl ether vapor may lead to loss of appetite, exhaustion, drowsiness, dizziness, and other central nervous system effects.
Flammability and Explosibility
Diethyl ether is extremely flammable (NFPA rating = 4) and is one of the most dangerous fire hazards commonly encountered in the laboratory, owing to its volatility and extremely low ignition temperature. Ether vapor may be ignited by hot surfaces such as hot plates