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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
Flammability and Explosibility
Nitrogen dioxide is not combustible (NFPA rating = 0) but is a strong oxidizing agent and will support combustion. Cylinders of NO2 gas exposed to fire or intense heat may vent rapidly or explode.
Reactivity and Incompatibility
Nitrogen dioxide-nitrogen tetroxide is a powerful oxidizer and can cause many organic substances to ignite. This substance may react violently with alcohols, aldehydes, acetonitrile, DMSO, certain hydrocarbons, and chlorinated hydrocarbons. Metals react vigorously and alkali metals ignite in NO2.
Storage and Handling
Because of its high acute toxicity, nitrogen dioxide 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) and compressed gases (Chapter 5.H). In particular, cylinders of nitrogen dioxide should be stored and used in a continuously ventilated gas cabinet or fume hood.
If large amounts of this compound are inhaled, the person should be moved to fresh air and medical attention should be sought at once. In the event of skin contact, immediately wash with soap and water and remove contaminated clothing. In case of eye contact, wash promptly with copious amounts of water for 15 min (lifting upper and lower lids occasionally) and obtain medical attention. If nitrogen dioxide is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately.
In the event of a release of nitrogen dioxide, use appropriate protective equipment and clothing. Positive pressure air-supplied respiratory protection may be required in cases involving a large release of nitrogen dioxide gas. If a cylinder is the source of the leak and the leak cannot be stopped, remove the leaking cylinder to a fume hood or a safe place, if possible, in the open air, and repair the leak or allow the cylinder to empty.
Excess nitrogen dioxide 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.