DENVER – The Environmental Health and Safety Department recently came upon a lab at the University of Colorado Denver that had ethyl ether that had been stored in the lab for several years.
Ethyl ether is a peroxide forming chemical and can become unstable and easily explode as it is shock sensitive. As a result of the instability of this chemical, the Auraria Campus Police, Denver Police Bomb Squad and Denver Fire Department had to coordinate the removal of the ethyl ether from the lab in the North Classroom Building.
Christina Aguilera, EHS manager of environmental compliance/industrial hygiene, notes that removal and disposal of unstable chemicals can be very expensive. Without the help of the bomb squad, removal of this chemical would have cost about $8,000.
This type of incident can be prevented by maintaining an updated chemical inventory and ensuring that chemicals with a shelf life are removed from stock, Aguilera said. Getting rid of materials that are no longer needed is recommended.
EHS has established an Online Chemical Inventory Program. The program requires that all laboratories complete and maintain a chemical inventory for all of their laboratory chemicals using the EHS online chemical inventory system.
Peroxide forming chemicals should be dated when received and when the container is opened. Ethyl ether should be discarded within a year after being opened, isopropyl ether should be discarded within three months of being opened, and all unopened containers of peroxidizable chemicals should be discarded within 18 months of being purchased.
EHS offers guidance on managing and preventing these types of hazards. Visit this webpage for details: http://www.ucdenver.edu/academics/research/AboutUs/health-safety/polices-procedures/Pages/policies-procedures.aspx.
For more guidance on managing these types or hazards or to set up a chemical inventory for your lab, please contact EHS at 303-724-0345.
(Photo: Hazardous material crew members remove a hazardous material from the North Classroom building.)