ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences



Petroleum spirit is a mixture of paraffinic, naphthenic and aromatic hydrocarbons.

Petroleum ether.
Avoid inhalation of the vapour.
Avoid ingestion.
Keep away from heat or naked flames.
Keep away from oxidising materials.
Keep the container tightly closed.
Protect against electrostatic charges.
Wash hands thoroughly after handling.
Clear, colourless, volatile liquid, mild aromatic odour.
Petroleum ether is a narcotic and can be absorbed into the body by inhalation of the vapour, ingestion of the liquid or through skin contact. It can cause polyneuritis. Prolonged contact can be fatal. It is a flammable liquid and should not be handled or stored close to heat or a naked flame. The vapours are heavier than air and can travel for a considerable distance along the ground to a source of ignition and flash back.
Skin ­ immediately remove contaminated clothing and 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). 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 ceased apply artificial respiration. Keep warm and allow to rest. If signs of narcosis develop seek immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ wash out the mouth thoroughly with water and give water to drink. Do not induce vomiting. Seek immediate medical advice.
Petroleum spirit is incompatible with oxidising agents.
Store in a cool, dry, well ventilated atmosphere away from heat or naked flames and oxidising agents.
Use a fume hood to minimise exposure to this substance. Wear protective clothing. A long sleeved laboratory coat or gown, rubber gloves, safety goggles and a face mask as a minimum standard.
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 leak: 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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