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Commonly-Used Chemicals

Quick Tips #237
Commonly-Used Chemicals

Acetone, ammonia, benzene, hydrofluoric acid, methyl ethyl keytone, sodium hydroxide, sulfuric acid and toluene.

Acetone

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  CH2COCH3
Ketone
Dimethyl ketone
Colorless liquid with mint-like odor
67-64-1
250 ppm
1000 ppm
1-health, 3-fire, 0-reactivity


Acetone is used as a chemical intermediate and as a solvent cleaner in fingernail polish remover, paint-related products and in the chemical production of other ketones. It evaporates readily from open containers, and has a vapor density twice that of air.

Acetone Health Effects

Inhalation of acetone can result in slight narcosis (exposure to mild concentrations) to respiratory failure (exposure to extremely high concentrations). In the event of accidental contact, skin should be washed and affected clothing removed immediately. In case of eye contact, eyes should be rinsed for 15 minutes.

Acetone Storage and Handling

Acetone should be stored in safety cans and cabinets meeting OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106 and NFPA Code 30 standards. Appropriate safety cans should have flame arrestors to prevent a flashback in the event of a spark. Containers should be bonded and grounded while dispensing. Acetone should be stored in flammable liquid cabinets when not in use. Local fire codes dictate how much acetone can remain outside of these cabinets throughout the work day.

Acetone Personal Protective Equipment

Splash goggles and chemical protective gloves made of butyl rubber or laminated film should be worn when working with small amounts. For more extreme exposures, Dupont Tychem BR garments offer greater than 8-hour breakthrough times. For respiratory protection, air-purifying respirators equipped with organic vapor cartridges should be set to the manufacturer's maximum-use concentration.

Ammonia

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  NH3
Inorganic gas
Anhydrous ammonia
Colorless gas with a penetrating, pungent odor
7664-41-7
25 ppm
50 ppm
3-health, 1-fire, 0-reactivity


More than 75% of the ammonia produced in the United States is used for fertilizer. Ammonia is a source of nitrogen, which is necessary for plant growth. Ammonia is also used as a source of protein in livestock feeds, in the production of fibers, plastics and explosives and in the extraction of certain metal ores.

Ammonia Health Effects

Ammonia is a strong irritant of the respiratory tract, skin and eyes. Severe burning of the eyes, runny nose and chest pain are potential effects of exposure. Breathing difficulties may be delayed from initial exposure. Exposure to high concentrations can lead to blindness, burning of the skin, respiratory failure and even death. Repeated exposure to ammonia may result in chronic irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract.

Ammonia Storage and Handling

Design, location, construction, installation and operation of anhydrous ammonia is regulated by OSHA 29 CFR 1910.111. As a chemical compound ammonia is very stable, but when combined with water it reacts violently with calcium, strong oxidants and halogens. It attacks aluminum, bronze, copper, galvanized steel, silver, zinc and their alloys. Containers and piping should be fireproof, and stored away from acids, halogens and oxidants. Liquid ammonia attacks certain plastics, coatings and natural rubber.

Ammonia Personal Protective Equipment

For leak management, responders should wear a minimum of level B clothing and supplied-air respirators. Non-vented goggles and face shields should be worn to protect against vapors and splash depending on the concentration. To guard against frostbite, cold-insulating gloves and protective clothing are essential.

NIOSH-approved respiratory protection includes the following:

Up to 100 ppm: An air-purifying respirator with ammonia cartridges; or any self-contained breathing apparatus with full facepiece; or any full face-piece supplied-air respirator.

Up to 300 ppm: A full facepiece air-purifying respirator with ammonia cartridges; or any self-contained breathing apparatus with full facepiece; or any full facepiece supplied-air respirator.

Up to 500 ppm: Any full-face supplied-air respirator operated in pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode.

Greater than 500 ppm: Any SCBA with full face-piece operated in pressure-demand or positive pressure mode; or any full-face supplied-air respirator operated in pressure-demand; or positive pressure mode in combination with an auxiliary self-contained breathing apparatus.

Benzene

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  C6H6
Aromatic hydrocarbons
Benzol
Colorless liquid with an aromatic odor
71-43-2
5 ppm
1 ppm
2-health, 3-fire, 0-reactivity


Benzene is used in the production of lubricants, dyes, detergents, drugs and pesticides. It can be found in crude oil, gasoline and cigarette smoke. Benzene ranks high in the volume of U.S. produced chemicals.

Benzene Health Effects

Breathing high levels of benzene can cause drowsiness, dizziness, rapid heart rate, headaches and unconsciousness. Eating or drinking foods containing high levels of benzene can cause vomiting, convulsions and even death. Benzene causes harmful effects to the bone marrow and can cause a decrease in red blood cells leading to anemia. The Department of Health and Human Services has determined that benzene is a known human carcinogen.

Benzene Storage and Handling

Benzene must be stored to avoid contact with oxidizers such as nitrates, peroxides, chlorates and permanganates. Metal containers used to transfer 5 gal. or more of benzene should be grounded and bonded. Drums must be equipped with self-closing valves, pressure vacuum bungs and flame arrestors.

Benzene Personal Protective Equipment

The American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACIGH) recommends the use of viton gloves for protection during short-period exposure. For respiratory protection from benzene at any exposure level, a NIOSH approved full-face supplied-air respirator is recommended.

Hydrofluoric Acid

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
NFPA rating
  HF
Inorganic acid
Hydrogen fluoride
Clear, colorless liquid
7664-39-3
3 ppm (ceiling)
3-health, 0-fire, 0-reactivity


Hydrofluoric acid is a common component in the manufacturing of refrigerant fluids and propellants, and in the pickling of stainless steel and other metals.

Hydrofluoric Acid Health Effects

Hydrofluoric acid is extremely corrosive to all bodily tissues. The fluoride ion readily penetrates the skin, destroying tissue. Skin contact results in deep, painful burns that are slow to heal. Concentrations greater than 60% will cause burns almost instantaneously, while weaker concentrations can cause serious skin damage, often going unnoticed up until eight hours after exposure. Inhalation causes an abnormal fluid accumulation in the lungs.

If swallowed, drink large quantities of water. If inhaled seek medical help immediately. In case of contact with the skin, remove contaminated clothing and flush the skin with water for a minimum of 15 minutes. In all cases of exposure, getting immediate medical attention is critical.

Hydrofluoric Acid Storage and Handling

Hydrofluoric acid should be kept in tightly closed polyethylene containers. These containers should be stored in a cool, dry, well-ventilated place away from other chemicals. Empty containers can be hazardous, since residual vapors or liquid may be present. Disposal should be in accordance with federal, state and local requirements.

Hydrofluoric Acid Personal Protective Equipment

Whenever possible, a fume hood should be used while working with hydrofluoric acid. If the permissible exposure limit is exceeded, a full facepiece respirator with acid gas cartridges may be worn up to the maximum—use concentration specified by the manufacturer. Because hydrofluoric acid has a relatively low IDLH, a full facepiece respirator may only be employed to 10 times the threshold limit value. Protective clothing made of PVC or neoprene should be worn.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone (MEK)

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  CH3COCH2CH3
Ketone
2-Butanone, ethyl methyl ketone, MEK, methyl acetone
Colorless liquid with mint- or acetone-like odor
78-93-3
200 ppm
200 ppm
1-health, 3-fire, 0-reactivity


Methyl ethyl ketone is a solvent commonly used during the spraying and spreading of vinyl and acrylic coatings, when mixing dye solutions and in various laboratory procedures. Other common uses include preparation of adhesives for artificial leather and for solvent spreading applications.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone Health Effects

Exposure routes for methyl ethyl ketone include inhalation, ingestion and dermal (skin) or eye contact. Common symptoms include irritation of the eyes, skin and nose, headaches, dizziness and vomiting.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone Storage and Handling

Methyl ethyl ketone is incompatible with strong oxidizers, amines, ammonia, caustics, isocyanates and pyridines. Highly flammable, methyl ethyl ketone should be stored in safety cans and cabinets that meet OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106 and NFPA Code 30 standards. Safety cans should have flame arrestors to prevent a flashback in the event of a spark. Containers should be bonded and grounded while dispensing.

Methyl Ethyl Ketone Personal Protective Equipment

Splash goggles and chemical protective gloves made of butyl rubber or laminated film should be worn when working for extended periods.

NIOSH-approved respiratory protection includes the following:

Up to 3000 ppm: Any full-face cartridge respirator with organic vapors cartridges; or any self-contained breathing apparatus with full facepiece; or any full facepiece supplied-air respirator.

Emergency or planned entry into unknown concentrations or IDLH conditions:

Any SCBA with full facepiece operated in pressure-demand or positive pressure mode; or any full-face supplied-air respirator operated in pressure-demand or positive pressure mode in combination with an auxiliary self-contained breathing apparatus.

Sodium Hydroxide

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  NaOH
Inorganic base
Caustic soda, lye
White, odorless, solid
1310-73-2
2 mg/m3 (ceiling)
2 mg/m3
3-health, 0- fire, 1-reactivity

Sodium hydroxide is the most-widely produced commercial caustic chemical in the world and ranks highest among all chemicals produced. Sodium hydroxide is used in many types of industries: soap production, chemical production, paper mills, food processing and electroplating.

Sodium Hydroxide Health Effects

Inhalation of sodium hydroxide can result in mild irritation of the respiratory tract to severe pneumonitis. Dusts, mists and solutions may cause irritation of the eyes and skin and possibly severe burns and blindness with overexposure. Ingesting sodium hydroxide can burn the mouth, throat and stomach, and can even cause death.

Sodium Hydroxide Storage and Handling

Sodium hydroxide should be kept in tightly closed containers to prevent it from absorbing moisture from the air. These containers must be kept separate from water and acid materials since contact can cause violent reactions. Contact between sodium hydroxide and metals such as aluminum or tin will cause corrosion of the metal and can create explosive hydrogen gas. Spills should be neutralized with a sufficient amount of water or a neutralizing agent such as citric acid. Instructions for neutralizing should be followed carefully since adding water or neutralizer will cause a release of heat and corrosive fumes as the solutions pH level decreases.

Sodium Hydroxide Personal Protective Equipment

When working with small volumes of diluted sodium hydroxide, splash goggles and nitrile gloves provide a minimum level of protection. Adding a face shield and laminated apparel may be necessary for larger volumes or higher concentrations. NIOSH-approved particulate respirators are effective respiratory protection for up to 10 times the exposure limit of 2 mg/m3 if no heating is used in the process. Applications in which the airborne concentrations are unknown require the use of self-contained breathing apparatus.

Sulfuric Acid

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  H2SO4
Inorganic acid
Battery acid, hydrogen sulfate, vitriol
Odorless, oily liquid
7664-93-9
1 mg/m3
1 mg/m3
3-health, 0-fire, 2-reactivity, no water


Sulfuric acid is an odorless, oily liquid that varies in color from colorless to light brown, depending on purity. It plays a part in the production of nearly all manufactured goods, with 65% of the amount produced annually used to produce fertilizers. Sulfuric acid is also used in batteries, leather and dye production.

Sulfuric Acid Health Effects

Inhalation of sulfuric acid mist can irritate the respiratory tract, which may lead to lung damage or pulmonary edema. Chronic exposures can cause inflammation of the upper respiratory tract, chronic bronchitis and etching of tooth enamel. Skin contact with mild concentrations can cause irritation while higher concentrations can result in severe burns. Ingestion can lead to a burning pain in the mouth, throat, esophagus and abdomen. More severe symptoms include a sour taste in the mouth followed by nausea and vomiting. Diarrhea of charred, black stomach contents may also occur.

Sulfuric Acid Storage and Handling

Sulfuric acid should be kept in tightly closed containers made of glass or PTFE resin. Mild concentrations may be stored in polyethylene containers. As a strong oxidizer, sulfuric acid will react with combustible materials or other organic material. It has a high affinity for water and is sometimes used as a drying agent.

Sulfuric Acid Personal Protective Equipment

Skin should be protected with chemical protective gloves and apparel appropriate for the application. Chemical splash goggles and face shield will provide adequate eye and face protection.

NIOSH-approved respiratory protection includes the following:

Up to 50 mg/m3 : Any full-face cartridge respirator with a combination of acid gas/P100 filter cartridges; or any self-contained breathing apparatus with full facepiece; or any full facepiece supplied-air respirator.

Up to 80 mg/m3 : Any full-face supplied-air respirtor operated in pressure-demand or other positive-pressure mode.

Greater than 80 mg/m3 : Any SCBA with full face-piece operated in pressure-demand or positive pressure mode; or any full-face supplied-air respirator operated in pressure-demand or positive pressure mode used in combination with an auxiliary self-contained breathing apparatus.

Toluene

Formula
Class of compounds
Synonyms
Appearance
CAS number
NIOSH TLV
OSHA PEL
NFPA rating
  C6H6CH3
Aromatic hydrocarbon
Colorless liquid with sweet and pungent smell
Methylbenzene, toluol
108-88-3
50 ppm
200 ppm
2-health, 3-fire, 0-reactivity


Toluene is used as an ingredient in paints, paint thinners, lacquers and fingernail polish. It occurs naturally in crude oil and the tolu tree. Odor is noticeable at 8 ppm.

Toluene Health Effects

Inhaling high levels of toluene in a short time can cause light-headedness and drowsiness. Repeated exposures can impair speech, vision and hearing, and lead to brain damage. Long-term exposures can damage the liver, kidneys and bone marrow.

Toluene Storage and Handling

Toluene should be stored in safety cans and cabinets meeting OSHA 29 CFR 1910.106 and NFPA Code 30 standards. Toluene must be stored to avoid contact with strong oxidizers such as chlorine, bromine and fluorine.

Toluene Personal Protective Equipment

Splash goggles should be used to protect eyes, and the American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists (ACIGH) recommends gloves made of viton. For respiratory protection, air-purifying respirators equipped with organic vapor cartridges are employed up to the manufacturer's maximum use concentration. If the possibility of exposures over 2000 ppm exists, a self-contained breathing apparatus is necessary.

Sources

NIOSH
ACGIH
OSHA

(Rev. 2/2014)


Find even more information you can use to help make informed decisions about the regulatory issues you face in your workplace every day. View all Quick Tips Technical Resources at www.grainger.com/quicktips.

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