ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Carbolic acid, hydroxybenzene, phenic acid, phenylic acid, phenyl hydrate, monohydroxybenzene.
Avoid skin and eye contact.
Avoid inhalation or ingestion.
Keep away from heat, sparks or naked flames.
Do not store close to oxidising agents especially aldehydes.
Colourless to pinkish, hygroscopic crystalline solid with a sharp, sweet, tarry odour. Will burn but does not readily ignite.
Phenol will burn but does not readily ignite. There is a moderate fire hazard when exposed to heat, oxidisers or incompatible chemicals. It is a strong eye, skin and mucous membrane irritant and highly toxic to the central nervous system. It can also damage the liver and kidneys. It is rapidly absorbed through the skin and can be fatal if not treated rapidly. Acute exposure to the eyes by the vapour causes marked irritation. A splash to the eye may cause severe damage and blindness. Skin absorption is a primary route of entry for the liquid, vapour or solid. Direct contact produces erythema and corrosion. It is rapidly absorbed causing sweating, thirst, nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, stupor, shock, excitation, cyanosis, hypotension, collapse, coma, convulsions, haemolysis and pulmonary oedema. Death is from respiratory failure. Inhalation and ingestion have the same effects except that ingestion will also cause severe burns to the mouth and throat. A 1 gm dose is usually fatal.
Skin ­ remove contaminated clothing and shoes 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.
Eyes ­ immediately wash the affected eye with large amounts of water until all evidence of the chemical has been removed (approximately 15 minutes). Seek immediate medical advice.
Inhalation ­ immediately remove from exposure to fresh air. If breathing has ceased apply artificial respiration. Keep warm and allow to rest. Get immediate medical attention.
Ingestion ­ if the victim is conscious and not convulsive, give two to four glasses of water then induce vomiting by touching a finger to the back of the throat. Then give 1 ounce (30 ml) of Milk of Magnesia. Get immediate medical attention.
Phenol is incompatible with:
Calcium hypochlorite ­ ignition.
Strong oxidisers ­ violent reactions including fire and explosion. (e.g. Peroxydisulphuric acid, peroxymonosulphuric acid, 1­3 butadiene, borontrifluoride diethyl ether complex, acetaldehyde, aluminium trichloride and nitrobenzene mixture, calcium hypochlorite).
Attacks plastics and rubber and some metals.
Reducing agents ­ give off flammable hydrogen gas.
Aldehydes ­ give off hydrogen gas.
Store in a cool, dry atmosphere away from heat or naked flames. Do not store close to strong oxidising or reducing agents. Do not store close to incompatible substances.
Use a fume hood that will keep exposure limits below the recommended threshold, ie. 5ppm (skin) OSHA and TWA, 20 ppm (Vapour) NIOSH and TWA. For exposure levels to 50ppm a respirator is recommended. For exposure above 50ppm a self­contained breathing apparatus is recommended. Wear protective clothing to avoid skin contamination and inhalation of the vapour. 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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