ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Sulphinylbis(methane), methyl sulphoxide DMSO.
Clear, colourless liquid.
Heating produces toxic fumes of formaldehyde and sulphur.
A teratogen and an allergen which freely penetrates the skin and can enhance absorption of other chemicals which may be present. It is an irritant to the skin, eyes and respiratory tract. Avoid contact with the chemical. Do not breathe the vapours. It can cause foetal damage and should never be handled by pregnant women. Acute exposure to the eyes will cause redness and pain with possible ocular damage. Skin contact, inhalation or ingestion can cause burning, itching, scaling, nausea, vomiting, chills and cramps.
Teratogen ­ do not allow staff who are pregnant to handle this chemical.
Avoid skin contact ­ can cause an allergic response.
Avoid eye contact.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Use a fume hood to avoid exposure to the vapours. Wear protective clothing to avoid skin contact. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard. If a fume hood is not available use a respirator.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and 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 or pain persist 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 or pain persist seek medical attention.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If breathing has stopped apply artificial respiration. Keep warm and allow to rest. Seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ wash the mouth thoroughly with water, do not induce vomiting but seek immediate medical attention.
This chemical is very hygroscopic. Keep the lid tightly sealed. Store in a cool, dry atmosphere.
Rubber gloves, self contained breathing apparatus and laboratory coat.
Eliminate all sources of ignition. Absorb on paper towels or with vermiculite. Place on an iron, glass or plastic dish in a fume hood. Allow to evaporate. burn the paper or vermiculite. Wash the site with a soapy solution.
1 Pour on to vermiculite, sodium bicarbonate or sand-soda ash mixture (90/10). If a fluoride is present, add slaked lime to the mixture. Mix and shovel into paper boxes. place in an open incinerator, cover with scrap wood and paper then ignite with a torch or fuse. Stay on the upwind side.
2 Dissolve in a flammable solvent. Spray into a fire box of an incinerator equipped with an afterburner and scrubber.


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