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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
able gloves, and a fire-retardant laboratory coat should be worn at all times when working with potassium, and the metal should be handled under the surface of an inert liquid such as mineral oil, xylene, or toluene. Potassium should be used only in areas free of ignition sources and should be stored under mineral oil in tightly sealed metal containers under an inert gas such as argon. Potassium metal that has formed a yellow oxide coating should be disposed of immediately; do not attempt to cut such samples with a knife since the oxide coating may be explosive.
In the event of skin contact, remove contaminated clothing and any metal particles and immediately wash with soap and water. 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 potassium is ingested, obtain medical attention immediately.
In the event of a spill, remove all ignition sources, quench the resulting potassium fire with a dry chemical extinguishing medium, sweep up, place in an appropriate container under an inert atmosphere, and dispose of properly. Respiratory protection may be necessary in the event of a spill or release in a confined area.
Excess potassium and waste material containing this substance should be placed in an appropriate container under an inert atmosphere, clearly labeled, and handled according to your institution's waste disposal guidelines. Experienced personnel can destroy small scraps of potassium by carefully adding t-butanol or n-butanol to a beaker containing the metal scraps covered in an inert solvent such as xylene or toluene. For more information on disposal procedures, see Chapter 7 of this volume.