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Prudent Practices in the Laboratory: Handling and Disposal of Chemicals
Flammability and Explosibility
Toluene is a flammable liquid (NFPA rating = 3), and its vapor can travel a considerable distance to an ignition source and "flash back." Toluene vapor forms explosive mixtures with air at concentrations of 1.4 to 6.7% (by volume). Hazardous gases produced in fire include carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide and dry chemical extinguishers should be used to fight toluene fires.
Reactivity and Incompatibility
Contact with strong oxidizers may cause fires and explosions.
Storage and Handling
Toluene 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, toluene 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.
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 toluene is ingested, do not induce vomiting. 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 toluene 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.
Excess toluene 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.