Why Should You Not Play with the Chemicals in the Laboratory

Many chemical reagents have been used in laboratory. There are some risks for not following proper rule, either playing with these materials which will endanger you and other person in the lab. Chemicals are something which you can’t play with. Why? Because they are very dangerous, toxic, explosive, corrosive, inflammable, and even cause skin burning. A faulty technique in handling these hazardous materials is one of the main causes of the accidents and the most difficult part to cope with.

Why Should You Not Play with the Chemicals in the Laboratory

Here are some hazards of the chemicals which you will use in the laboratory. Please keep in mind to stay safe when handling these chemicals.

1. Flammables, is chemicals which readily burn and ignite fire in air. The vapors will be released from a flammable liquid. The degree of hazard is associated with a flammable liquid depends on its flash point, flammability limit, and ignition temperature. The most common ignitable chemical has a flashpoint less than 100 F. An explosive material will be burned, but it may need increased temperature to start them. Examples of extremely flammable chemicals are methanol and acetonitrile.

2. Corrosive, is for chemicals that will damage your tissue by chemical reaction. For instance, strong acids with pH < 2 (sulfuric acid, nitric acid – is one of most dangerous chemicals in the world) and strong bases with pH > 12.5 (potassium hydroxide, sodium hydroxide). Corrosive substances cause destructive burns on the tissue by chemical reaction at the contact site. These corrosive materials will infect respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract if being inhaled and ingested.

3. Toxic chemicals are chemicals which are poisonous if they enter the body. These toxic chemicals will generate injury or lethal effects upon contact with body cells due to their properties. The toxic effects depend on the extent of exposure, which is determined by the dose, duration, and frequency of exposure and the route of exposure. These toxic effects will be resulted after long term (chronic) or short term (acute) exposure. For example are sodium cyanide, sodium azide, and dimethyl mercury.

Here are some category lists of toxic materials.

  • Carcinogen, a substance that cause a cancer after contacting with these materials.
  • Mutagen, an agent that induce frequency of DNA mutation in organism.
  • Poison, a substance that can impair function, cause structural damage or injure the body.
  • Sensitizer, a substance that causes hypersensitivity or reactivity to an antigen, such as pollen, especially by repeated exposure.
  • Teratogen, an agent that causes malformation of an embryo or fetus. 

There are list of chemicals which is toxic and its target organs, such as.

  • Neurotoxins (nervous system) – mercury (metallic, inorganic and organic), xylene, carbon disulphide, n-hexane, trichloroethylene.
  • Hematoxins (blood) – carbon monoxide, nitrates aromatic amine compounds
  • Hepatotoxins (liver) – chloroform, dinitrobenzene
  • Nephrotoxins (kidney) – cadmium, mercury, carbon tetrachloride
  • Dermatoxins (skin) – organic solvents

4. Reactive chemicals which undergo spontaneous chemical reaction or readily react with other chemicals, including water and air. There are some list of reactive chemicals including:

  • Oxidizers, such as hydrogen peroxide, nitric acid, perchloric acid, sulphuric acid, chlorates, chromates, nitrates, peroxides, permanaganates, and picrates. These chemicals will spontaneously decompose under certain conditions to yield oxygen, even they can burn violently. Of course, oxidizers couldn’t be stored altogether with flammables materials.
  • Organic peroxides, which will form friction and shock-sensitive explosives. For instances is benzoyl peroxide, methyl ethyl ketone peroxide.
  • Air reactive (pyrophoric) is the chemicals which will furiously react with oxygen or moisture in air and generate ignition spontaneously, such as butyl lithium.
  • Potentially explosive. Chemicals which subjected to heat, impact or friction will sustain rapid chemical change, which evolve large volumes of gases which causes sudden increasing in pressure. This explosive reaction could be catalyzed by heat, light, mechanic stress. Such explosive chemicals examples are including acetylides, azides, nitrogen triiodide, organic nitrates, nitro compounds, perchlorate salts, and organic peroxides.
  • Water reactive will react fiercely with moisture or water, such as lithium, sodium, potassium, aluminium bromide, calcium oxide, sulfur trioxide, and phosphorous pentachloride. 

5. Irritant. Those irritant chemicals examples are less dangerous compared to other categories of chemicals. Otherwise, these materials can cause harm in the following ways.

  • Irritant, a substance that can irritate the skin or eyes.
  • Skin sensitizer, a substance which will cause an allergic response following skin contact.
  • Acute toxicity, a substance will cause fatal or organ damage from a single-short term exposure.
  • Narcotic effect which will cause drowsiness, lack of coordination, and dizziness.
  • Hazardous to ozone layer

There are several instructions which have to be followed in order to get the safety first.

  1. Follow the instructions. Please listen well to your instructor or lab supervisor, and you can follow the instructions which written in the book. All the steps have to been understood well before you act. If you have confused with several steps, you can asked first to your instructor to avoid any unwanted situation. Furthermore, it is very important not to ruin your experiment.
  2. Using appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), such as lab coats, lab footwear, gloves, and safety googles will keep you safe during the experiment in a laboratory. These PPE will help you to prevent any contamination to your body or avoid any spilled out materials. The first thing to know is the location of safety equipment. If there’s something goes wrong, find safety shower to water your eyes which have been infected with any chemicals.
  3. Never eating, drinking, smoking, even applying cosmetic and using contact lenses in laboratory areas. You will be exposed to the chemicals if you eat in the laboratory. Yet, you couldn’t concentrate well when you are working while eating.
  4. Before starting your experiment, always read and interpret Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) first. Why? Because it helps you understand regarding the material which you will handle off, whether the material is toxic, flammable, or dangerous.
  5. Never tasting or sniffing the chemicals directly. The best way to know what is inside the container is by reading the label which written or labelled. Smelling or even tasting the chemicals could be deadly.
  6. Don’t mixing the chemicals altogether, which will cause any explosion, burning, release of toxic gases and many others.

To conclude, safety reason is the first priority and the most important parts when you do the experiment. Besides, your awareness of the possible risks or hazards needs to be raised off to avoid any undesirable effect. Indeed, that’s all the explanation about why should you not play with the chemicals in the laboratory.