ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Flammable, colourless, clear liquid with a characteristic odour, or a white crystalline solid. The vapours are heavier than air and may travel a considerable distance along the ground to a source of ignition and flash back.
Benzene is incompatible with:
Oxidising agents ­ some reactions can be explosive.
Nitric and sulphuric acids ­ these reactions produce considerable heat and under some conditions could be dangerous.
Benzene attacks some rubber compounds.
This hydrocarbon is a carcinogen and must be handled with great care. Workers in the rubber industry who have received regular exposure to benzene are known to be at risk for bladder cancers. It is also a flammable substance and is toxic. The toxic effects are cumulative. Acute exposure to the eyes of the liquid or the vapour causes irritation. Skin contact causes defatting of the epithelium which may result in secondary infection. Inhalation causes dizziness, headache and drowsiness. Ingestion causes headache, dizziness, fatigue, loss of appetite, irritability, nervousness and can cause blood disorders.
Use a fume hood, carcinogen.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour.
Avoid ingestion.
Keep away from heat or naked flames.
Keep away from oxidising materials.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Use a flame proof fume hood that will keep the level of exposure below the recommended threshold limit, i.e. 25 ppm. If the level of exposure is expected to exceed this limit then a respirator is recommended. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask. If there is the possibility of a splash to the face then a full face shield should be worn.
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 irritation persists seek medical attention. Wash contaminated clothing before re­use.
Eyes ­ immediately wash the affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If irritation persists seek immediate medical attention.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If breathing has ceased apply artificial respiration. Keep warm and allow to rest. If signs of toxicity develop or irritation persists seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ wash out the mouth thoroughly with water then seek immediate medical advice.
Store in a cool, dry atmosphere away from heat and incompatible substances.
A gas leak keep the concentration of the gas below the explosive mixture range by forced ventilation. Remove the tank to an open area and allow dissipation to the atmosphere. Attempt to cap the valve outlet and return the tank to the supplier.
A liquid absorb on paper. Evaporate in an iron pan in a flame proof fume hood then burn the paper.
A solid sweep on to paper and place in an iron pan in a fume hood. Burn the paper and compound.
A gas pipe the gas into an incinerator or lower into a pit and allow to burn.
A liquid atomise into an incinerator. Combustion may be improved by mixing with a more flammable solvent.
A solid make up packages in paper or other flammable material. Burn in the incinerator. Or the solid may be dissolved in a flammable solvent and sprayed into a fire chamber.


BACK to the top of the Glossary Contents List
BACK to the top of the Chemical Contents List