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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
Reactivity and Incompatibility
HF reacts with glass, ceramics, and some metals. Reactions with metals may generate potentially explosive hydrogen gas.
Storage and Handling
Dilute solutions of hydrofluoric acid (<50%) should be handled using the "basic prudent practices" of Chapter 5.C. Because of its corrosivity and high acute toxicity, anhydrous hydrogen fluoride and concentrated solutions of HF should be handled using the "basic prudent practices" of Chapter 5.C, supplemented by the additional precautions for work with compounds of high toxicity (Chapter 5.D). All work with HF should be conducted in a fume hood to prevent exposure by inhalation, and splash goggles and neoprene gloves should be worn at all times to prevent eye and skin contact. Containers of HF should be stored in secondary containers made of polyethylene in areas separate from incompatible materials. Work with anhydrous HF should be undertaken using special equipment and only by well-trained personnel familiar with first aid procedures.
Laboratory personnel should be familiar with first aid procedures before beginning work with HF; calcium gluconate gel should be readily accessible in areas where HF exposure potential exists.
First aid must be started within seconds in the event of contact of any form. In the event of skin contact, immediately wash with water for 15 min and remove contaminated clothing. If available, apply calcium gluconate gel. Obtain medical attention at once, and inform attending physician that injury involves HF rather than other acid. In case of eye contact, promptly wash with copious amounts of water for 5 min while holding the eyelids apart and seek medical attention at once. If HF is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately. If HF vapor is inhaled, move the person to fresh air and seek medical attention at once.
In the event of a spill of dilute hydrofluoric acid, soak up the acid with an HF-compatible spill pillow or neutralize with lime, transfer material to a polyethylene container, and dispose of properly. Respiratory protection may be necessary in the event of a large spill or release in a confined area. Releases of anhydrous HF require specially trained personnel.
Excess hydrogen fluoride 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.