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Chapter 8 - Chemical Hazards

Chemicals can be broken down into hazard classes and exhibit both physical and health hazards. It is important to keep in mind, that chemicals can exhibit more than one hazard or combinations of several hazards. Several factors can influence how a chemical will behave and the hazards the chemical presents, including the severity of the response:

  • Concentration of the chemical.
  • Physical state of the chemical (solid, liquid, gas).
  • Physical processes involved in using the chemical (cutting, grinding, heating, cooling, etc.).
  • Chemical processes involved in using the chemical (mixing with other chemicals, purification, distillation, etc.).
  • Other processes (improper storage, addition of moisture, storage in sunlight, refrigeration, etc.).

The following sections describe general information and safety precautions about specific hazard classes. The chemical hazards listed are based on the Department of Transportation (DOT) hazard class system (which will be discussed in the Chemical Segregation section and where appropriate, will be noted as such). A listing of the DOT hazard classes can be found on the EHS Signs and Labels webpage. A general description of the hazards of various chemical functional groups can be found in the appendix.

It is important to note that the following sections are general guidelines. Laboratory personnel should always review SDSs and other resources FIRST, before working with any chemical.