ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Dioxane, diethylene dioxide, diethylene oxide, glycol ethylene ether, 1,4-diethylene dioxide, tetrahydro­p­dioxin, tetrahydro­1,4­dioxin, dioxyethylene ether, diethylene ether, P­dioxane, 1,4-dioxacyclohexane.
Colourless liquid with a faint ether­like odour. Highly flammable. The vapour is heavier than air and may travel long distances along the ground to a source of ignition and flash back. Peroxides may form in closed containers which are explosive when contact with air is made.
Peroxides will form slowly in the stored reagent, the process is accelerated upon exposure to air. The peroxides may explode if exposed to heat or flame. Sulphur trioxide ­ violent reaction.
Hydrogen and nickel catalyst ­ explosive reaction above 200°C.
Silver perchlorate, triethynyl aluminium and decarborane ­ explosive compounds.
Heating produces toxic products of carbon.
Although not classified as a carcinogen by Worksafe Australia Dioxane has produced tumours in laboratory animals and is regarded as tumorigenic by RTECS. It is a mutagen and is highly toxic through all routes of exposure although the toxic effects are more pronounced when dioxane is inhaled. It should never be handled by staff who are pregnant. It is an eye, skin and mucous membrane irritant and a central nervous system narcotic. It can cause irreversible liver and kidney damage with fatal consequences and may damage the circulatory system causing blood disorders. Skin contact may result in drying and cracking of the skin with defatting. Acute exposure does not produce serious irritating effects but it is absorbed through the skin and can be absorbed in concentrations sufficient to produce narcosis. Inhalation at 200 ppm is hazardous and at concentrations of 300 ppm will irritate the eyes, nose and throat. Lengthy exposure at this level has produced drowsiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting and liver and kidney damage. Exposure to 470 ppm for three days causes death in a human. Ingestion of the liquid is only moderately toxic but is likely to cause a sore throat, nausea and abdominal pain. Large amounts will cause liver and kidney damage. The Worksafe Australia standard is 25 ppm.
Mutagenic ­ do not allow staff who are pregnant to handle dioxane.
Carcinogenic ­ handle with extreme care.
Use a fume hood.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour.
Keep away from heat, sparks and flames.
Use only with adequate ventilation.
Use an approved fume hood that will keep levels of exposure below the recommended limits, i.e. 25 ppm. (Worksafe Australia). For exposure above this level a respirator is recommended. For exposure above 300 ppm a self­contained breathing apparatus is recommended. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves (PVC or rubber), safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and shoes 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). Seek immediate medical advice. Wash 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). Seek medical advice if irritation persists.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If breathing has stopped apply artificial respiration. Keep the patient warm and resting and seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ if the victim is conscious rinse the mouth with water and give two to four glasses of water to drink. Controversy exists over whether or not to induce vomiting in patients ­ some safety data sheets recommend that vomiting be induced, others recommend that vomiting should not be induced. The safest course is to seek immediate medical advice.
Store in a cool, dry and dark atmosphere in a fire proof cabinet away from oxidants.
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.
This is a very toxic substance and is harmful to aquatic and birdlife. It should never be disposed of to sewer.


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