Flammability and Explosibility

Ethanol is a flammable liquid (NFPA rating = 3), and its vapor can travel a considerable distance to an ignition source and "flash back." Ethanol vapor forms explosive mixtures with air at concentrations of 4.3 to 19% (by volume). Hazardous gases produced in ethanol fires include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide or dry chemical extinguishers should be used for ethanol fires.

Reactivity and Incompatibility

Contact of ethanol with strong oxidizers, peroxides, strong alkalis, and strong acids may cause fires and explosions.

Storage and Handling

Ethanol should be handled in the laboratory using the "basic prudent practices" described in Chapter 5.C, supplemented by the additional precautions for dealing with highly flammable substances (Chapter 5.F). In particular, ethanol should be used only in areas free of ignition sources, and quantities greater than 1 liter should be stored in tightly sealed metal containers in areas separate from oxidizers.

Accidents

In the event of skin contact, immediately wash with soap and water and remove contaminated clothing. In case of eye contact, promptly wash with copious amounts of water for 15 min (lifting upper and lower lids occasionally) and obtain medical attention. If ethanol is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately. If large amounts of this compound are inhaled, move the person to fresh air and seek medical attention at once.

In the event of a spill, remove all ignition sources, soak up the ethanol with a spill pillow or absorbent material, place in an appropriate container, and dispose of properly. Respiratory protection may be necessary in the event of a large spill or release in a confined area.

Disposal

Excess ethanol and waste material containing this substance should be placed in an appropriate container, clearly labeled, and handled according to your institution's waste disposal guidelines. For more information on disposal procedures, see Chapter 7 of this volume.



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