ABC of Safety in the Biological Sciences




Corrosive substances are solids or liquids capable of inflicting severe damage to living tissues. A reaction begins immediately contact is made. Corrosives can damage metal surfaces and may also be flammable or combustible. Interaction with other chemicals may produce toxic or explosive products. Corrosive substance used in laboratories include acids, ammonia, halogens and chromium trioxide to name just a few.

When handling corrosive substances a fume hood should be used or the area should be well ventilated. Staff should wear appropriate protection which should include a laboratory coat or gown with elasticised wrist bands, rubber gloves and face protection. Avoid breathing the vapours which are also often corrosive.

Corrosives should be carried in fully enclosed containers that will retain spills should an accident occur. Like acids many corrosive substances generate heat when mixed with water. It is advisable therefore to always add corrosives to cold water, slowly and in small amounts with frequent stirring.44

If contact with any corrosive substance occurs, immediately wash the affected area thoroughly (see chemical splash to the body). If corrosive substances are pipetted into the mouth wash out with multiple rinses of water and seek medical advice.45 If swallowed do not induce vomiting but dilute with large quantities of fluid and seek immediate medical advice.

Corrosive substances should be stored in cool, dry, well ventilated areas away from direct sunlight, heat or pipes containing steam or heated water and away from incompatible chemicals. The area should be inspected frequently for any evidence of damaged or leaking containers.

Empty containers may retain hazardous residues and should therefore be handled carefully.



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