General Properties Of Common Chemicals

The hazardous materials list can be summarized in the following categories:

• Inorganic acids, such as hydrochloric, sulfuric, nitric, or phosphoric, are colorless liquids with stinging vapors. Avoid spills on skin or clothing. Spills should be diluted with large amounts of water. The concentrated forms of these acids can destroy paper, textiles, and skin as well as cause serious injury to the eyes.

• Inorganic bases such as sodium hydroxide are white solids which dissolve in water and under heat development. Concentrated solutions will slowly dissolve skin and even fingernails.

• Salts of heavy metals are usually colored powdered solids which dissolve in water. Many of them are potent enzyme inhibitors and therefore toxic to humans and to the environment {e.g., fish and algae).

• Most organic solvents are flammable volatile liquids. Avoid breathing the vapors which can cause nausea or dizziness. Also avoid skin contact.

• Other organic compounds, including organosulphur compounds such as mercaptoethanol or organic amines, can have very unpleasant odors. Others are highly reactive and should be handled with appropriate care.

• If improperly handled, dyes and their solutions can stain not only your sample, but also your skin and clothing. Some of them are also mutagenic (e.g., ethidium bromide), carcinogenic, and toxic.

• Toxic compounds are often used to manipulate cells. They can be dangerous and should be handled appropriately.

• Be aware that several of the compounds listed have not been thoroughly studied with respect to their toxicological properties. Handle


each chemical with the appropriate respect. Although the toxic effects of a compound can be quantified (e.g., L D values), this is not possible for carcinogens or mutagens where one single exposure can have an effect. Also realize that dangers related to a iven compound may also depend on its physical state fine powder vs. large crystals/diethylethtr vs. dycerol/dry ice vs. carbon dioxide under pressure in a gas bomb). Anticipate under which circumstances during an experiment exposure is most likely to occur and how best to protect yourself and your environment.

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