ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




ethyl ether, diethyl oxide, ether, oxybisethane, oxyde d'ethyle, solvent ether.
Colourless, hygroscopic, very volatile, highly flammable. May travel considerable distance to source of ignition to cause a flash back. Has aromatic odour and sweet taste. Slightly soluble in water; soluble in alcohol, chloroform, benzene, solvent naphtha and oils. Unstable peroxides can be formed.
Hazardous reactions with explosives, toxicants, radioactive materials, oxidising materials or organic peroxides. Easily ignites by contact with nitric acid or fuming sulphuric acid, or by mixing with liquid oxygen or liquid air, resulting in explosion hazard. Unstable peroxides are formed on standing. The bottle should be checked periodically for peroxides and the container purged with nitrogen then resealed.
Anaesthetic, irritant to skin and mucous membranes, is highly narcotic. Disturbances of central nervous system by inhalation and absorption. Exposure can cause conjunctivitis, irritation of respiratory tract, defatting, dermatitis, headache, dizziness, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, paralysis and albuminuria. In addition to above, chronic exposure may cause psychic disturbances, will cause unconsciousness. TLV 400 ppm.
Avoid inhalation.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid static electricity, may ignite.
Highly flammable, keep away from heat or naked flames.
Take care when opening container, explosive, unstable peroxides form in closed container.
Wash hands well after handling.
Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles as a minimum standard. If large quantity used a respiratory should be used.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and wash 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 sensitisation occurs seek medical attention. Wash contaminated clothing before re­use.
Eyes ­ immediately wash affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). If irritation persists seek medical advice.
Inhalation ­ remove to fresh air. If breathing has ceased apply artificial respiration. Seek medical advice.
Ingestion ­ causes vomiting. Seek immediate medical attention.
Stored only in standard flammable liquid storage room, isolated from other combustible material. Avoid direct sunlight and protect from static electricity.
Rubber gloves, large, heavy face shield (if any doubt also use a body shield) and self contained breathing apparatus.
Eliminate all sources of ignition. Absorb the spill on a paper towel. Evaporate from an iron pan in a fume hood that is flash proof. Allow time for the vapours to completely escape the hood vents, then burn the paper. If a large spill, absorb using larger quantities of paper or vermiculite. Then proceed as above.
1 Pour on the ground in an open area. Allow to evaporate or ignite from a safe distance by means of a long fuse.
2 Dissolve the waste in a high alcohol (eg. butyl), benzene or petroleum ether then incinerate.
3 If ether peroxides are present - DO NOT OPEN THE CONTAINER. Explosions have occurred when stoppers were removed or caps turned. Transport the can or bottle to an isolated area (eg. deserted quarry). Each container or bottle should be wrapped in padding material or packed in sawdust. At the site, uncover the containers and arrange a fuse. from a safe distance puncture the container near the bottom with rifle fire. Ignite the fuse. Always observe local regulations.
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