While the $5.7 trillion a year global chemicals industry has made leaps and bounds in terms of lab safety, there are some dangers that remain difficult to neutralize completely. No matter what sector you work in, as a chemist of any kind you are likely to face hazardous lab chemicals on a daily basis.
Even some of the most frequently-used compounds on Earth can be deadly when handled incorrectly. If you are in need of a chemical lab refresher, read on to find out the most common hazardous chemicals you are likely to come across on the job.
1. Sodium Hydroxide
One of the most common types of chemical reaction lab substances is sodium hydroxide, which is used in manufacturing, oil processing, water treatment, and hydraulic fracturing, to name just a few. It can also be found in paper, soap, and plastics as a common element. However, it can also be extremely hazardous.
Sodium hydroxide is a highly corrosive substance, causing irritation, severe burns, hair loss, and even blindness to those who have direct contact with it. Always wear your protective gear and be extremely cautious when handling sodium hydroxide.
2. Polyethylene Glycol
Polyethene glycol is used in a wide number of industrial manufacturing processes. It also has a number of medical properties and is used to treat conditions such as constipation. However, it is also a hazardous chemical that must be used with caution in any chemical reaction lab. If inhaled in significant quantities, it can cause severe respiratory tract inflammation and even death.
It can also cause extreme skin irritation and burns if it contacts the surface of the skin directly. If you are sourcing polyethylene glycol from lab chemical suppliers, you should always use trusted and experienced suppliers to ensure you get a safe and quality batch. For example, you can consult this site to obtain quality, lab-ready polyethylene glycol.
Many laypeople will know methanol as one of the main components of store-bought antifreeze. Meanwhile, any chemical lab technician will recognize it as a common solvent that is used on a near-daily basis in a wide range of reactions. It is a crucial chemical agent in a wide range of pharmaceutical products, as well as a core component of many plastics and synthetic fabrics.
However, it is also hazardous. Methanol is highly flammable and extremely toxic. Direct ingestion can destroy the optics nerves and cause permanent blindness. Even inhaling methanol vapors in large enough quantities can cause the central nervous system to shut down, causing coma and even death.
Any chemical lab is likely to contain a substantial amount of formaldehyde. It is a hugely reliable adhesive and solvent and can be used in a countless variety of common reactions. Formaldehyde is used to manufacture building materials, household insulation, and glue.
It is also used in a number of medicinal products and in the manufacture of resins and explosives. Unsurprisingly, it should be used with extreme caution. Exposure to even low levels of formaldehyde in the air can cause skin irritation and asthma-like respiratory problems that can become permanent. Direct ingestion is likely to be fatal.
Keep Safe When Using Your Lab Chemicals
No matter what lab chemicals you are using, your safety should always be at the very top of your priorities. Always use full, quality protective gear. Only allow qualified professionals to handle lab chemicals. Always follow your lab's safety procedures in case of an emergency. This will allow you to do your job safely and efficiently.