ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences



ACETALDEHYDE (CH3CHO) UN No. 1089; Hazchem 2YE

Acetic aldehyde, ethanal, ethyl aldehyde.
Colourless, highly flammable liquid with characteristic, pungent, fruity odour. Has been known to spontaneously combust on exposure to the atmosphere, oxygen and hydrogen peroxide.
Reacts violently with acid anhydrides, alcohols, ketones, phenols, oxidants, halogens and amines. It can react dangerously with ammonia, hydrogen cyanide and sulphide. It polymerises exothermically with acetic acid.
May be absorbed into the body by inhalation and ingestion. Irritates the skin, corrosive to eyes and respiratory tract. Inhalation of vapour or fumes may cause shortness of breath, sore throat, coughing, laboured breathing and pulmonary oedema. Affects the central nervous system causing drowsiness, depression, liver and heart damage. Ingestion causes toxicity. The acute stage produces severe irritation of the digestive tract with possible liver and heart damage. The chronic stage produces delirium, hallucinations and brain damage. Serious cases may be fatal.
Use a fume hood.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation or ingestion of the vapour.
Keep away from heat or naked flames.
Keep away from incompatible substances.
Keep the container tightly sealed.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Use a fume hood to minimise exposure to this substance. Wear protective clothing to avoid skin or eye contact, inhalation or ingestion. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing then immediately wash the affected area with soap or mild detergent and large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If hypersensitivity develops seek medical attention.
Eyes ­ wash the affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes).After irrigation seek immediate medical attention.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. Keep warm and allow to rest. Seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ wash out the mouth thoroughly with water and give water to drink. Do not induce vomiting. Never give anything by mouth to an unconscious person. Seek immediate medical advice.
Store in a cool, dry atmosphere away from incompatible substances, heat or ignition sources.
Extinguish all sources of ignition. Wear rubber gloves, eye protection, self contained breathing apparatus and laboratory coat or gown with elasticised wrist bands.
SPILLS: Eliminate all sources of ignition and flammables. Small - absorb on a paper towel. Evaporate in fume hood and burn the paper. Large - cover with sodium bisulphite. Add a small amount of water and mix. Scoop into a large beaker. Discharge to sewer with a large excess of water. Wash the spill site with a soapy solution.
PACKAGE LOTS: (Choice of procedures). 1. Absorb on vermiculite. Burn in an open pit or open incinerator. 2. Dissolve in a flammable solvent (such as acetone or benzene). Spray into the fire box of an incinerator equipped with an afterburner.
Hazardous to the environment. Spillages must be contained.


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