ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences



(See also Ether and Ethanol for associated hazards).

Collodion is the commercial name of a nitro cellulose usually supplied as a 4% or 6% solution in ether/ethanol.

Celloidin, low viscosity nitrocellulose, necoloidin.
Supplied as a colourless, viscous liquid with an ether­like odour. The vapour is heavier than air and may travel for a considerable distance along the ground to a source of ignition and flash back.
Heating produces toxic fumes of nitrogen, hydrogen, cyanide, and carbon. Beware of static electricity. Also see diethyl Ether and Ethanol (this section).
Highly flammable ­ never store or handle close to heat or a naked flame. It is usually dissolved in a mixture of ether and ethanol. See Ether and Ethanol (this section) for related hazards. Health hazards relate more to the solvents than to collodion. High concentrations of ether vapours may cause narcosis, loss of consciousness and respiratory paralysis if inhaled. Care is required when pouring as there is a tendency to produce static electricity which could ignite the vapour, especially if a metal container is used. If a metal container is used ensure that it is properly earthed before pouring begins.
The solvent is a narcotic, avoid inhalation.
Avoid skin contact.
Highly flammable, keep away from heat or naked flames.
Take precautions against static discharge.
Use a fume hood. Do not handle close to heat or a naked flame. See Ether for limits of exposure. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
Skin ­ collodion is sticky and may require the use of the solvent to remove contaminations from the skin. After removed with a solvent 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). Collodion is difficult to remove from clothing and shoes. Ether defats the skin and may cause dermatitis. If irritation or dermatitis develop 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). If irritation persists seek immediate medical advice.
Inhalation ­ as for Ether.
Ingestion ­ as for Ether.
Keep the container tightly closed and store in a well ventilated, cool, dry atmosphere away from heat or naked flame.
Rubber gloves, face shield and laboratory coat. Have an all purpose canister respirator available.
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.


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