ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Polyoxymethylene, paraform.
Use a fume hood.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour.
Keep away from heat or naked flames.
Can cause sensitisation and dermatitis.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Clear, combustible liquid with a pungent odour.
A strong skin, eye and respiratory tract irritant in liquid or vapour form. It is toxic and serious cases of toxicity can result in death. It is absorbed through the skin and by inhalation or ingestion. Long term contact may cause asthma. Prolonged contact can result in sensitisation and dermatitis of the skin. It is corrosive to the eyes and the respiratory tract. It is a combustible liquid and should not be stored or handled close to a naked flame. Above 70°C explosive vapour­air mixtures may be formed. Finely dispersed particles are explosive. Acute exposure to the eyes causes redness, pain and blurred vision. Skin contact causes localised redness and pain. Inhalation causes sore throat, coughing, shortness of breath and laboured breathing. Ingestion causes sore throat, abdominal pain and vomiting.
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 advice. 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 immediate medical attention.
Inhalation ­ remove from the area of exposure to fresh air. If breathing has ceased apply artificial respiration. Keep warm, sit in a half­upright position. Seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ rinse the mouth with water and give large amounts of water to drink. Seek immediate medical attention.
Paraformaldehyde is incompatible with:
Strong oxidants ­ violent reaction.
Above 70°C explosive vapour air mixtures may be formed.
Finely dispersed vapour is explosive.
Heating produces the toxic formaldehyde gas.
Store in a cool, dry atmosphere away from heat.
Use a fume hood that will keep the level of exposure below the recommended threshold limit, ie. 2ppm. Above this level a respirator is recommended. Above 30ppm a self­contained breathing apparatus should be used. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
Rubber gloves, self contained breathing apparatus and laboratory coat.
Eliminate all sources of ignition and flammables.
Small: absorb on a paper towel. Evaporate in fume hood and burn the paper.
Large: cover with sodium bisulphite. Add a small amount of water and mix. Scoop into a large beaker. Discharge to sewer with a large excess of water. Wash the spill site with a soapy solution.
1 Absorb on vermiculite. Burn in an open pit or open incinerator.
2 Dissolve in a flammable solvent (such as acetone or benzene). Spray into the fire box of an incinerator equipped with an afterburner.


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